What is Fast Fashion and Could it Actually Lead to Environmental Doom?
A fashion trend can change in a matter of minutes. One monumental idea spreads like wildfire, creating a movement of ‘Must Haves’, “So In”, and down right “Yasss Queen” attainable fashion goals for industries, celebrities, and the everyday consumer. This quick fix demand in retail is called Fast Fashion.
Mass production, high turnover companies such as Target, Forever 21, H&M, and Indetix - the parent company of Zara - are today’s mega moguls of the fashion market that currently boast a reputation for product waste. In 2018, Spanish retailer Zara set the standard for competitors with a whopping 18,000 designs, 30,000 product units and the capacity to execute an inventory within 3 weeks time. Additionally, sourcing offshore labor to reduce cost and enforce even lower quality in products.
So how do they get away with poor quality apparel? In 15 minutes or less, the style has become obsolete, old news, and outdated. If an article of clothing is able to last 20 years like those made in the early 1990’s it has a very high chance of becoming Vintage therefore desirable and valuable potentially more than its original intended lifespan; however, because of cutting down on material costs, production timelines, and chemically enhanced fiber sources, stretching these materials to last is nothing short of impossible.
Today, the fashion industry is the second largest source of water pollution to agriculture. Cotton, once the leading fiber for textile production, still comes at a significant cost to the labourers that tend to it during the growing process. Several cases have resulted in birth defects to children born to Indian cotton farmers and even some cases death caused by long-term exposure to the chemical process in sustaining the cotton crop that is today, a genetically modified material. Polyester, today's number one resource in clothing, is even worse. When polyester garments are washed in domestic machines, micro fibers shed from the articles. Since these fibers are so small they pass easily through sewers and water treatment plants ending up directly in our oceans and causing harm to ocean life ecosystems due to their inability to biodegrade. To put into perspective, small creatures eat the microfibres, which usually are then ingested through the food chain and almost definitely ending up in that Salmon dinner you ate Sunday night.
Before snagging that $10 graphic tee off the rack at the next sale, it may be smart to consider where that fabric might end up in the next 5 years.
So what happens to “That’s so Yesterday’s” textiles when their 15 minutes of fame is over?
You guessed it, in a landfill. As discussed in our last article, landfills are a detrimental cause of pollution and chemical toxins filling our breathing air and being absorbed into our natural food sources.
Thankfully there are heroes out there that have already taken this unsettling matter into their own hands. Using reverse psychology, supported facts, and the right marketing tools, they too are making their own movement. “- if we had culture instead of consumption we would not be in this environmental mess”, a well illustrated reality presented by Vivienne Westwood in her 2019 Spring/Summer Campaign that concentrates on the natural elements that is our World. She captures the controversial topic sporting apparel decorated in mantras like “Buy Less, Dress Up” and “I fought the law”. The mastermind behind the “Punk Rock” fashion movement, has made waves with her campaigns fighting to urge companies to remove toxic materials from their products and bring back quality clothing while creating a trend in conservation.
Organizations such as GreenPeace and WRAP are among the many that have joined the movement to combat fast fashion waste. In 2011, Greenpeace - a global campaigning organization of peaceful protest -dove into the war on Eco-activism, starting the “Detox My Fashion” campaigns. In their efforts to bring awareness to environmental suffrage, the 2016 “Detox Catwalk” campaign evaluated at-large brand names and their parent companies’ on their 2020 deadline to eliminate hazardous chemicals from production. Grading on necessary elements for success such as the company’s individual progress towards their 2020 deadline, the substitution of PFC materials with safer materials, and most importantly transparency to suppliers and consumers of chemical presence in their merchandise. Using Greenpeace algorithms, we are pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar names such as H&M, Indentix - parent brand of Zara, and Benetton in the winners circle for environmental impact awareness. Perhaps even more shocked to discover, the biggest offender to be such a renowned brand as Nike. Additionally, brands such as Adidas, Levi’s, and Puma’s are on a slow track in the right direction but could fall short of their 2020 goals.
Today, the H&M Group is heavily influencing “Garment Collecting” for retailers. Taking the first initiative to offer discounts to consumers on their in-store purchases when they donate old or used clothing of any brand, sending them to great heights amongst the competition. After all, who doesn’t love an eco-friendly brand. In 2017, H&M successfully collected “more than 17,771 tonnes of textiles — the equivalent of 89 million T-shirts”. Whether or not they will be able In 2014, WRAP -a government funded project through the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan in the United Kingdom- jumped on board when they launched Love Your Clothes, a “National Lovestory” focused on the reduction of fashion industry waste by recycling. By encouraging the learning of a few sewing techniques, Love Your Clothes emphasizes self-expression and improving overall self confidence while saving hundreds to thousands of dollars a year as well as the environment.
As retailers and influencers of fashion continue to model good “housekeeping”, develop campaigns that encourage quality over quantity, and consumerism be redirected to repurposing and perhaps even shopping small- a positive fashion forecast is on the rise. As a consumer and reader, we urge you to consider doing a little inventory in your own closet, maybe even take up a new skill with your textiles. Be creative! Together we will go far in keeping our planet a thriving home for future generations.
written by Kenzie Gargiulo