As tempting as it is to turn to some cheap retail therapy in the form of fast fashion, these items, much like the fleeting comfort they provide, were never intended to last. Quite literally designed to fall apart, the cost of fast fashion goes well beyond the low numbers on price tags. What does last instead, are the major environmental impacts, the tonnes of discarded, unsold clothing on landfills and the terrible working conditions of employees. The consequences of the fast fashion industry have been made abundantly clear for years now. From informative documentaries such as The True Cost and investigative writings such as Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas, there is no lack of information regarding the issues surrounding the industry. We as the consumers have been told time and time again about the drastic environmental impacts and horrific human rights violations, yet this industry continues to thrive. It seems that we are more interested in chasing ever-changing trends than creating a more sustainable model of production.
1. POWER TO THE CONSUMER
We as the consumers, determine what is sold to us. If cheap clothes and weekly trends are what we want, unfair practices and the destruction of the environment is what we will get. Supporting fast fashion brands is synonymous to supporting the atrocities which this industry runs on. Where our money goes, the industry will follow. The largest number of fast fashion consumers are found in the younger generation. It is crucial for us to recognize our power to shape industries and methods of production, especially if we are the biggest driving force behind it. Those of us that are in the position to cast a vote with every dollar we spend, should do exactly that. There is no doubt that boycotting is a privilege and that not all of us are able to turn down the affordability of fast fashion. However, this industry does not make its billions through those that don’t have a choice. This responsibility lies with the consumers that have more money to spend and continue to fuel a constant demand for a never-ending supply of trends and clothing. Before our industries adapt to better practices, we must first adapt to being more conscious consumers. The fact that we have adopted a cultural mentality which render clothes as essentially disposable is a major part of the issue. It is crucial that we take a step back and evaluate our relationship with fashion and the clothes we wear. Ditching these fast fashion companies is your opportunity to make a different kind of fashion statement, one which screams: “These practices will no longer be tolerated!
2. AWAY WITH THROWAWAY CULTURE
Ditching fast fashion goes beyond disagreeing with the industries practices, it also addresses the culture created by it. Traditionally the fashion cycle runs on four seasonal trends per year, but companies like Zara churn out new lines of clothing on a weekly basis. This has fueled an endless desire for new items and has rendered clothing disposable. The more trends get put forth, the cheaper they get and the more disposable they become. It seems absurd that so many resources are wasted on clothes that are only worn a handful of times and end up on landfills faster than they are actually produced. It is this sort of throw-away culture that must be completely abandoned by young consumers who are the main proprietors of it. Being bombarded with fast fashion trends on social media platforms and being encouraged to have an ever-changing new wardrobe is a big part of the problem. It perpetuates the idea that in order to be stylish, cool or even successful, we need to buy into this disposable fashion culture. Throw-away culture is both created by and in support of the fast fashion industry, the two go hand in hand on a very unsustainable path. In ditching fast fashion we can also begin to reshape the current culture surrounding the fashion industry, into one which respects its producers, the environment and promotes conscious consumption and individuality.
3. FOR THE LOVE OF AUTHENTICITY
Along with the exploitation of workers and natural resources, fast fashion has long been known to appropriate and often times down right steal intellectual property. The concept of fast fashion is heavily grounded in the notion that it is making high-end fashion trends and styles available to the masses. A notion which appears to be democratic and fair, but in reality relies on the creativity and exploitation of others. While there are arguments that lean towards the idea that this makes high-end fashion trends less exclusive and therefor less desirable to the upper class, the bigger problem is when this copy-cat behavior is directed towards smaller independent brands and designers. Most of which are not in a position to get involved in a lengthy and costly legal battle against these fast fashion giants who sit on annual budgets set aside for this exact purpose. It is quite likely that some of your favorite items from stores like Zara or H&M, originally came from someone else’s innovation and design. So not only is fast fashion responsible for degrading its workers and the environment, but also the creative process and culture of fashion at large. We cannot claim to be fashionistas or trend setters if all we are doing is relying on the rapid turn over of trends with no regard for the work and creativity that goes into it.
4. FAST FASHION DITCHES YOU
This may be hard to believe, but nothing about the fast fashion industry is in your favor. Even though it is incredibly cheap, collectively we pay a much higher price. These companies pollute our soil, air and water at an exponential rate. Not to mention the tonnes of discarded clothes which will dress our earth for the next 200 years due to the nature of these cheaply made fabrics and textiles. Consider that the fashion industry employs an estimated one in six people on earth, many of which endure dangerous and exploitative working conditions while not even earning a livable wage. In 2019, the global market value of fast fashion was a staggering 36 billion U.S. dollars. It seems unlikely that this industry is not capable of enforcing and ensuring safer and better practices for the earth and all its inhabitants.
5. NOT ALL FASHION IS FAST
Luckily, the fashion industry is ripe with innovative and conscious individuals and companies that are steering the industry in the right direction. Many brands and designers are exploring alternative models of production and practices which are kinder to people and the environment. Even though such products may appear to be more costly, they are actually designed and made to give you more value and last significantly longer. Supporting independent and sustainable brands promotes a better fashion cycle. It fuels innovation, creativity and passion rather than creating a toxic culture of over-consumption. These options are already available to us and well worth investing in. This shift in consumption will inevitably also lead to a more unique and diverse fashion industry with less repetition and copy-catting. Once again, we as the consumers have the power to invest our money in the practices and industries which we want to support and see thrive.
Clothing is more than an essential basic need. It is a means of expression. It is a significant manner in which we present ourselves to the world. It can communicate culture, characterize identities and elevate us. We need to take a step back and consider what it is we are putting forth in world. By choosing to ditch fast fashion, but more importantly to support sustainable and innovative brands, we can contribute to the creation of a better and more sustainable fashion industry.