Fast fashion: buzzword of the year.
I bet you have heard these two words at some point. And if you keep reading, next time you hear them, they’ll make you cringe.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry hasn’t always been the cleanest one, in many senses. And now more and more people are waking up to it.
Look at your outfit and tell me:
Do you know who made it? What conditions they were working in? What about the impact its production had on the environment?
And it’s no coincidence that every day there are more and more sustainable fashion brands around.
We can recognize fast fashion by:
- The low quality and durability of the clothing
- Its low price, due mainly to…
- The low wages factory workers are paid
- Lack of originality – its repetitive styles are based on trends that change at the speed of light
Did you know that instead of having 4 collections for the natural seasons in a year, fast fashion brands have…52! One for each week of the year!
C’mon, no one has enough space in their closet or enough days to wear all that.
This little trick makes you feel outdated and in the need of new goodies, aaaand you end up buying more stuff. It’s a cycle, you see?
But there are ways to get out of the loop.
Do you need help to quit fast fashion ONCE AND FOR ALL? Follow these 8 steps!
You don’t need to have a perfect moral compass, or the environmental awareness of Greta Thunberg to realize that something is not right here.
If you want to learn more about the impact of fast fashion, don’t forget to watch these documentaries on fashion and sustainability.
1. We buy over 80 billion pieces of new clothing each year worldwide
Do you realize how many zeros this number has? 80 billion = 80,000,000,000.
This represents an increase of more than 400% since the year 2000. Also, bear in mind that we are only 7.7 billion people on the planet…so do your math.
Picture this: in the year 2016 alone approx. 20 new garments per person were manufactured.
We see clothing as disposable items. We use them, throw them, and we feel we need more.
Who doesn’t have something in their closet they have only worn once?
…even when it is possible to recycle or reuse the materials.
IMPORTANT: Most pieces of clothing are synthetic – not biodegradable – and by ending up in landfills they release harmful gases, filter toxic chemicals and dyes into the soil, and all that jazz.
Not to say that they’ll end up breaking down into microfibers (aka microplastics) that are released into the air, soil and water flows for the 200+ years they take to disappear.
Luckily, some great brands are trying to tackle the microplastic problem by making new clothes out of discarded plastic. Did you know that?
3. Textiles account for almost 35% of the global microplastic pollution
Did you know that washing a load of synthetic clothes can release more than 700,000 microfibers? I can’t even believe it.
There are ways to avoid releasing microfibers, like using laundry bags – definitely head over to Guppyfriend if you want them–, or a washing machine filter.
Want to learn more about microplastics? Head over to this post!
4. Fast fashion uses A LOT of water
Obviously, this takes into account every step of the manufacture, from the gathering of the materials to their arrival to the storefront.
It also produces around 20% of global waste water, usually polluted with toxic chemicals and dyes. This is the case of Kanpur, India, where 50 million litres of polluted water are poured daily into the local water currents of the Ganges as a consequence of leather manufacturing.
5. The fashion industry makes 3 trillion dollars yearly
Which equals 2% of the world’s GDP.
Of those, around $1 trillion belong to the fast fashion sector.
But still, factory workers make less than 3 dollars per day. Imagine, the richest CEOs from the fashion industry make in four days more than one of their workers in their lifetime.
In 2013, there was this huge protest in Cambodia where fashion factory workers demanded a decent minimum wage of 160$/month.
As a result of the protests, the government agreed to raise it to 140$/month – which seems like a great increase from the 100$ they were initially offering. Can you believe it?
So, guess who receives benefits from the cheap clothes we can buy.
6. It’s one of the most polluting industries
The fashion industry produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year –more than air and maritime transportation together.
This is around 10% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s mainly due to its long supply lines and its need for lots of energy.
And without proper reforms, by 2030 the emissions will rise more than 60% and would equal more than 25% of the carbon budget by 2050.
If you want to learn more about your carbon footprint and how to reduce it, check this post!
7. 40 million people work in fast fashion factories all over the world
Of those, around 4 million work in 5,000 factories in Bangladesh alone producing for western brands. And yes, you guessed it, the reason is cheap labour.
Delocalization is veeery common for fast fashion brands. With the vast majority of their manufacturing facilities –aka sweatshops – overseas, they can manage to pay extremely low wages.
Like this, they also avoid any other legal requirements such as health insurance, safe working conditions,…
And this is not good news. It doesn’t have to do with female emancipation and empowerment, but with women being taken advantage of.
In many cases women are responsible with their salary for their entire household – let’s say, around 97 $ per month.
Fast fashion is a feminist issue, and, particularly today, we cannot be selective and empower women in one part of the world while ignoring others.
So what’s next?
Look, I just don’t want to live in a world without fashion. And to have fashion, we need a fashion industry.
Which doesn’t mean that we need a toxic fashion industry. Neither environmentally toxic nor socially toxic.
The solution is as simple as being aware that you, as a consumer, have more power than anyone else. This is the first step. Millions of fashionistas around the world have already realized this.
The more people like you and I show interest in how our actions affect the world, the more brands will realize they have to do something to respond.
The change starts in our own actions. How we consume, how we picture the world we want to live in, and how we communicate it to others.
So, why don’t you start by asking who made your clothes?