What is Fast Fashion? This is a question that more and more people are asking themselves these days as they realize that the fashion industry is out of control. And the answer describes fast fashion as a profit-oriented business model in which new trends are constantly being created so that people buy more and more clothes. In the end, the sufferer of Fast Fashion, along with the environment and society, is basically everyone - except the big fashion brands. Fast fashion has a large share in the biggest Environmental problems of our time.
In this article I would like to show you what fast fashion is, what are the causes and consequences of this development of the fashion industry and what solutions are already in the starting blocks.
Fast Fashion - What is it?
Yes, what is actually behind the term fast fashion? To get to know the problem better, we should first find a suitable definition for the term.
The term fast fashion refers to a corporate strategy whose goal is to bring new fashions into stores at high frequency.http://www.fastfashion-dieausstellung.de/de/konsum
The fashion industry has found a simple but not inconsequential way with fast fashion, Have people buy more of their own products in a short period of time. While we used to be accustomed to the latest fashion trends twice a year (spring/summer & autumn/winter collections), today the trends already renew at least once a month. But this is mainly about cheap fashion - because it is bought more often. Cheap it is only because it was produced from cheap material for a cheap wage. But because the fashion is so cheap, it is bought more often. And so that the industry can earn from it, material and fashion pieces must be produced even faster.
Facts, Statistics & Notes
In order to clarify the problem behind fast fashion, I would like to provide you with some facts and statistics.
- Fashion giant Zara launches about 12,000 new designs per year.₁
- The textile industry makes about $3 trillion in sales per year.₂
- Between 2000 and 2014, global clothing production doubled. In 2014, it was 100,000,000 garments.₃
- For the American market, 97% of all garments are produced in low-wage countries such as Cambodia or Bangladesh.₄
The facts about the development of fast fashion are scary. I would like to show you the Sustainability documentation "The True Cost" to the heart. You can watch it on Netflix, for example. The film explains the problem of fast fashion in a short time.
Causes of fast fashion
My plan was actually to put here a list of the most significant causes of fast fashion. But it does not need a list at all. Because the reasons for the existence of a problem like fast fashion are the following Fashion industry greed for profit and we as Consumers, which fulfill this desire through more regular shopping trips.
The industry simply outsources the production of the material and the finished clothing to low-wage countries. The bosses of the big fashion brands like Zara and H&M are not interested in the fact that garments are produced there under the most terrible conditions for a pittance. Especially not which toxins are released into the environment through the production. The only thing that matters is THAT production is cheap. Because in this way profit margins can be achieved that would never be attainable with fair production in Europe or America. For us consumers, this dirty business is hardly recognizable - unless you question how it is even possible to sell a T-shirt for 3.99€.
But I do not want to forget here that in addition to the greedy fashion brands, of course, the exponentially increasing world population increases the demand for clothing and, of course, this problem is an additional cause of the existence of fast fashion.
While the causes of fast fashion are explained quite quickly, the consequences for the environment and society are more detailed.
Fast Fashion Consequences
It is hard to imagine what consequences such a regularly wandering over the cash register T-shirt for 3.99 € can bring with it. That's why I would like to show you in more detail why fast fashion is such a massive problem for our coexistence on this beautiful planet. Which should also remain so beautiful.
Consequences of production for fast fashion
In order to meet the increasing demand for cheap textiles, in addition to crude oil for fibers from Plastic a particularly large amount of cotton is needed. And to ensure the latter, rainforests are cleared in order to grow 80% genetically modified cotton on the arable land obtained, using pesticides and consuming an inconceivably high amount of water. The chemicals used produce deadly diseases in the environment. Birth defects, cancer and mental illness are some examples of increased consequences.₅ The circle closes when you realize that companies like Monsanto are behind both seeds and chemicals for faster growth of cotton, as well as drugs against cancer.
Tip: Learn in the article about Organic cotton more about the sustainable alternative to conventional cotton.
Social consequences of fast fashion
The fashion industry creates jobs - that's a good thing at first. But for the trend-setting fashion in America, 97% of all garments are already produced in low-wage countries.
Low minimum wage, no union rights, no permanent employment. The fashion industry has fallen in love with countries like Bangladesh in order to be able to produce its clothing as cheaply as possible. Those who sew sweaters and pants there do so under the most violent conditions. Chemicals, dark, dirty halls, no maternity pay, no pension rights. And all that for less than 2,70€ per day. Anyone who wants to form a union is beaten up behind closed doors. This is the everyday life of 4 million people who work in the textile industry in Bangladesh alone. And if the fashion industry wants to produce even more cheaply, then wages will be pushed down even further by the Bangladeshi government - because it has to stimulate the country's own economy. But the industry does not have to deal with the additional suffering - because the workers are not employed by Zara & Co. The price for a 3.99€ shirt is therefore significantly higher at second glance.
Fast fashion and the consequences for the environment
However, it is not only the genetically modified, water- and energy-intensive cultivation of cotton that is harmful to the environment, but especially the industrial waste water, which is used, for example, to global land degradation contribute. In leather production in India alone, 50 million liters of industrial wastewater are discharged into the Ganges every day. The holy river is poisoned - yet its water continues to be used for drinking water production and for irrigating the fields. I would also like to mention the waste of resources - because where there is mass production, there is usually a lot left over. Discarded goods, produced with great agricultural effort and suffering, which can no longer be accepted even by aid organizations, are simply burned. Because fast fashion is actually so cheap that it is not worthwhile to sell off or refurbish the textiles.
What to do about fast fashion?
The environmentally friendly answer to the momentous fast fashion was not long in coming. It is called slow fashion and refers to a movement of appreciating one's own existing clothes and is thus a valuable part of the minimalist lifestyle.
It's not enough, sustainable fashion from natural material. Fast fashion must be slowed down by simply buying less and enjoying what is already there.
The following aspects will surely help you to counteract the problem of fast fashion in your daily life:
- Maintain & respect existing fashion
- Choose better and buy less new
- Use well combinable, timeless clothing
- Buy quality - that is, durable clothing
- Define your own style & hide trends
- Repair, re-sew or upcycle clothing
- Exchange or sell superfluous fashion
I have deliberately not mentioned here the donation to the DRK used clothing container. Even if this is the quickest way to dispose of clothing that is superfluous for you, it unfortunately causes problems at the markets where it finally arrives. And people can't get the clothes there for free either.
The following documentation explains this problem resulting from fast fashion very well:
Stop Fast Fashion Together
As you learned today, fast fashion is both a problem for human coexistence on Earth and a massive environmental problem. People suffer disease, forests are cut down, species are displaced, and rivers are poisoned - all so we can buy new clothes on a regular basis.
Finally, I would like to recommend that you watch the film "The True Cost" on Netflix. Then, at the latest, you will realize that fast fashion is a problem that needs to be solved from both an environmental and an ethical perspective.
Do you have any questions, tips, or your own experiences with fast fashion that you'd like to share? Then feel free to leave a comment.
PS.: In the Environmental protection blog I treat of course all topics around the topic nature & environment. But the bulk of my work concerns the Life without plastic. If you want to know more about it, I can give you my Book plastic free for beginners to the heart. Have fun reading!
₄ Fashion United: Trump's economic plans: winners and losers in the fashion industry (as of 04.01.2017), available at https://t1p.de/q4po. [18.08.2020].
₅ Pritpal Singh / Documentary: The True Cost