What is Fast Fashion? Fast fashion is essentially cheap clothing which is rapidly mass-produced by the market’s biggest retailers. Fast fashion is produced at such a high rate in order to keep up with the demand of the latest fashion trends. Those with little knowledge of fast fashion and how it operates would deem the rate at which production occurs to be impressive, however, this blog will highlight why shopping fast fashion is not only dangerous, but also unethical, as well as provide alternatives to shop in a more sustainable way.
How To Distinguish Fast Fashion Brands It is often easy to spot a fast fashion brand, as they offer hundreds or even thousands of different styles and designs and cater to all the latest fashion trends (1). Fast fashion brands often facilitate a short turnover period between when a new clothing trend is seen on a prominent celebrity or in mainstream media, to the time it appears in store or online.
Moreover, one simple google search will be able to tell you whether a brand uses offshore manufacturing. Often this is the case due to offshore labour being cheap, as workers are on unliveable wages and without adequate working rights and safety. However, one of the most straightforward, distinguishing elements of a fast fashion brand is that their products are cheap-looking and are made of low quality materials.
Why Fast Fashion Is Dangerous and Unethical The idea of fast fashion is to get the newest fashion styles and trends on the market as fast as possible, while the trend is still current and popular. Fast fashion essentially appeals to shoppers because it is not only trendy, but also very affordable.
These clothes are affordable simply because they are cheaply made and not built to last. Not only this, but often after people purchase trendy clothes, they are discarded after only a few wears as society has deemed it unacceptable to wear the same outfit more than once. This contributes to the toxic cycle of overproduction and consumption, tragically making fashion one of the world’s largest polluters. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry contributes 10% of yearly global CO2 emissions, which according to the foundation, is more than the combined amount of international flights and maritime shipping (2). Furthermore, the current prediction suggests that by 2050, the fashion industry will be using up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget (3).
Not only does fast fashion negatively impact the environment, but it also raises a number of ethical concerns. While the fast fashion industry creates affordable fashion options for individuals, it also exploits workers in foreign countries, particularly minors, by forcing them to work in unsafe conditions and without adequate rights in order for brands to selfishly keep up with the market. In 2013, the Rana Plaza clothing manufacturing complex located in Bangladesh unfortunately collapsed and killed over 1000 workers (4). This tragic was the first global recognised event that led to people beginning to question whether fast fashion is actually ethical or sustainable.
It is important to highlight a number of very familiar brands that contribute to the exploitation of people, particularly those who live in countries such as Bangladesh, who are desperate to make a living, working in inhumane conditions in order to earn as little as $1 a day. Some of these brands include; ZARA, H&M, UNIQLO, Boohoo, Fashion Nova, Victoria’s Secret, GUESS, and more (5).
Alternatives and How To Shop Sustainably A sustainable alternative to fast fashion is actually “slow fashion” which focuses on quality over quantity, made of eco-friendly materials and is produced much more ethically. Famous British designer Vivienne Westwood once said, “buy less, choose well, make it last" (6). This reinforces buying quality over quantity and timelessness over trendiness.
There are a number of ways to make your clothes last, and therefore contribute to sustainable fashion. Obviously the first point is to treat them with care to make sure they last! Buying less and flipping your clothes is a great idea, for example, by turning your jeans into shorts or an oversized jumper into a crop. Before you consider throwing them out, wear them till they are worn out, fix them when they need patching up or stitching and RECYCLE instead of simply throwing them out!
While shopping, if possible, it is a great idea to buy from brands that produce clothing and accessories made of eco-friendly fabrics which do not contribute negatively to the planet and are manufactured ethically, with workers being paid properly and working in safe conditions. Ideally, it is a good idea to purchase from Australian brands that source and produce their products in Australia and do so ethically and sustainably. Some sustainable Australian fashion brands include; Afends, NICO, Outland Denim and Bondi Born (7).
Article by Lara Demaio
Co- Vice President
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