The Problem With Fast Fashion

problem with fast fashion

We are probably alive in a very critical for the environment age. Sure you have heard the word “sustainability” and if you are really interested in fashion you have most likely stumbled across the term “fast-fashion”. Very often, these terms come hand in hand too.  However, you might not know what exactly the term “fast-fashion” stands for and the impact it has on the environment and people involved in it, so I felt the need to start a discussion on that topic. I truly hope you keep reading and learn more about the problem with fast fashion. I think it concerns all of us.

But first, for the ones that have never heard this term, let’s discover what exactly fast fashion is.

What Is Fast Fashion

fashion mannequins

We use the term “fast fashion” for cheap, poorly made, trendy clothes that quickly come out of style. Fast fashion retailers create a demand for this type of clothes by introducing new products multiple times a month (some even every two weeks). Why do they do that? Well, because changing collections all the time is very profitable.

How they do that?

Instead of replenishing their stock with the clothes they have already in their shops and are sold out, they create new items making the previous ones looking outdated and unfashionable. That makes us, the consumers, to constantly want to keep shopping in order to have in our possession newer and trendier clothes.

Now that the term fast fashion is clear let’s talk about why it is bad.

The Problem With Fast Fashion

Producing massive quantities of clothes in a very short time comes at a real cost. Since fast fashion retailers want to have new trends all the time, they create huge quantities of each garment. The reason for that is that if it sells out they will not have enough time to replenish the stock before the next collection comes in. But, many times the stock is so big that doesn’t sell.

problem with fast fashion

What happens to the stock that is not sold? I would like my answer to be “They give it to charity”, but no. That’s not the case. It ends up in landfills or gets burned because they claim that by donating clothes they will ruin their image.

Also, promoting and producing new trends at a very high rate results in stealing and copying designs from other small creators or even bigger brands. That is because the design process needs time. It takes a lot of brainstorming for a design to emerge and become concrete whereas copying is so much faster. This is something that can really hurt the creators and especially the small ones that are struggling to make their living from their art. How would you feel if your idea got stolen from someone that is practically untouchable and you could never claim your right?

Conditions of the working places

One of the worst parts is that they use cheap labor that is usually sourced from sweatshops. Sweatshops are factories in countries where labor is cheaper and where the safety laws and ethical human rights are usually less well enforced and neglected. Long hours with very low wages, working places in which safety standards do not apply, exposure to toxic chemicals, and even child and slave labor.

Have you ever heard of the Rana Plaza building that collapsed in April 2013? That resulted in the death of 1,134 people and the injury of approximately 2,500 and it was a factory that produced fashion for fast-fashion retailers. (If you want to know more about that here is a Wikipedia link and a 5min documentary from the New York Times.) It is so frustrating to realize that they spend millions of dollars in order to use appealing advertising with celebrities and people of influence but do nothing to improve the working conditions of their employees.

Under these circumstances, the term “fashion victim” takes a literal meaning.

One more interesting thing to keep in mind is that when you see the “Made In…” tag it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole production started and ended in this country. It is just the country in which the garment was transformed last. The other stages, like where the fabric was sourced, made, or assembled are completely unknown and nontransparent.

fast fashion facts

Environmental cost

Overconsuming can’t be harmless to the environment either. Garment production in unregulated factories allows the use of toxic chemicals in creating colors, prints, and fabrics. These chemicals can be harmful to the workers, to our skin when we wear these clothes and to the environment. They are usually dumped into rivers and streams polluting the water, the soil and harming the ecosystem in these areas. Let’s not forget the water and the resources it takes to make them.

A report written by a team from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (you can find it here) claims that the textile industry is one of the most polluting and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation.

Also, because of the fact that these clothes are cheap and poor quality can be worn out after a few washes. That makes them even more disposable to the eyes of us, the consumers, so we throw them away in huge rates. As a result, the cycle of a garment from a fast-fashion brand is usually “produce-> buy -> dispose”.

Some more facts

Is there any solution to the problem with fast fashion?

After all this research and the things I learned, I started questioning myself. Is fashion really worth all of this? Well, definitely ‘No”. Is there something we can do? I think “Yes”, but we need to try and be more conscious when we shop. I don’t know a single person (including me) that is not or has never been a consumer of fast fashion and I believe the same applies to you and the people that surround you. And that makes sense since no one tells us what’s behind a 5 dollar t-shirt and the only thing we see is the glam advertising and the money we save.

Small but important changes that we, as consumers, can do in order to stop supporting this kind of practices.
  1. Stop looking to buy trendy things that you know are going to be out of fashion in the next months. Look for stylish things that are classic and you feel like you will wear in the years to come.
  2. Look the tag of the production country. Avoid buying from countries that you know the working conditions are poor and even children are exploited.
  3. Do your research and learn to distinguish between slow fashion and fast fashion brands. This way you can make informed decisions on how you shop.
  4. Choose to make more sustainable fashion choices. I have a full, detailed guide that you can check out here.

I’m not saying do it all at once, because fast fashion is easy, cheap and this is all we know, however, its good to be educated on the matter and start making conscious choices. Even a small change in the way we shop can be a step to a big improvement.

At the end of the day, the constant demand of consumers is one of the parts that are responsible for the rise of fast fashion and the exploitation of the environment and the people involved in.

I’m really looking forward to your opinions on the problem with fast fashion, so feel free to tell me in the comments section below.

kate

16 Replies to “The Problem With Fast Fashion”

  1. Thanks for this article. I never knew about the idea of fast fashion but I definitely agree that it’s not a sustainable practice. I never really worry too much about fashion, I just wear whatever is comfortable for me. I certainly don’t worry about one shirt being out of style and having to get one that’s in style. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for years.
    I like that shirt that said I have nothing to wear. It is my kind of humor.
    I always appreciate your articles about these important issues. You always word everything very well and I think that you will change some people’s minds. I already agreed with you from the start though.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I really hope that I can inform some people that know nothing about the matter.

  2. I actually do wear clothes from these bad people. I didn’t realize all this in the past. Now that I know better, I know what to avoid. I feel it is bad that they are taking the work of the smaller companies or individuals and making it theirs by copying it and making money out of it. The fast fashion is real and I’m glad that you could give tips on how we can stop it. I believe it is a collective thing, I mean a lot of people do not know this. So I’ll share this post to my blog too, in order to educate people just like I was educated about the dangers of fast fashion. Awesome!

    1. Hi dear Henderson,
      All of us wear clothes from fast fashion brands because this is what we were trained to do. But if we start changing our behavior as consumers, things will change too.
      Thank you for stopping by!

  3. I must commend the importance of this topic. Sometime ago my daughter felt she was big enough to get her stuffs by herself and eventually she started buying these cheap clothes that was all shinny and all. After a couple of washing and sun drying, it was losing its color real fast. The wastage of money couldn’t be avoiiand since then we go for the real ones. These low qaulity stuffs should be taken out. Thanks for sharing

    1. Hello Dane,
      It’s a fact that bad quality clothes cost more in the long term than the better quality ones.
      Thank you for stopping by

  4. Dear Kate,

    Thanks a lot for the insightful and informative post.

    I must say I found your post highly uplifting and educational. Your post is a shocker, and I am shocked when I read about Fast Fashion & it’s a big problem. Thanks a lot for shedding light on this. I can tell you I have taken some great insights from this post.

    I really felt bad and worried when they sell the clothes for such a huge margin. Oh my god, burning the clothes??? this is not fair at all. Stealing and copying designs is a cheap business practice.

    Information on Sweatshops is an eye-opener for me. This post is so thorough it opened my eyes to all sorts of information I wasn’t aware of!

    The best thing is you not only discussed the problem, but you have provided the solution as well which is amazing.

    1. Hello dear Paula,
      I’m so glad that you found this post informative because this is my goal after all.
      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  5. Very accurate Kate, educating everyone on this subject, will go a long way. Thanks for the article. Celebrities in the various profession usually encourage fast fashion by making a demand for clothes they have to replace very frequently, regardless of cost and because of this, the fashion industry makes huge profit and they don’t want to stop making fast fashion. But qualitywise, sustainable clothes are definitely better.

    The solution is that we must take a collective effort in trying to change our mindset. We can have clothes that will last for many years instead of discarding and replacing every few months. Fast fashion digs a hole in our pockets this way, due to the reason that we think we have to buy all the time in order to catch up with the latest fashion.

    1. Hey Kelly,
      It’s so true. Celebrities play a huge part in the overconsuming of products and us, people, since we want to look like them, copy such behaviors. We must change the way we buy stuff in order to stop supporting this kind of industry and their practices.

  6. Really interesting article and very informative about the fashion industry and what is hidden behind. Unfortunately there are lots of people profiting from this business and acting completely unconsciously. It would be nice to know exactly where the product that you are buying is coming from and the full stages of its production, but as you mention the information stated in the label does not represent reality.
    Also trying to wear the clothes that we are buying in the long term and find proper ways to dispose them is really important.
    Thank you Kate for bringing up this matter and remind us to think twice before going for our next clothes shopping!!

    1. Hi dear Giota,
      It’s exactly as you stated it. There are lots of people profiting from this business and act completely unconsciously, hurting others in need. We must become informed and conscious consumers if we want these practices to stop.

  7. Hi! Good article! It’s good to be more consious about our purchases!
    The challenge is, that it’s not just the fast fashion. It is hard to tell which companies make use of production sites where working environment is dangerous or unhealthy. Or where people are underpaid. A lot of the well known fashion labels (also the ones that are a bit more expensive) make use of those factories or production sites in the fashion industries. And many people are not able to or willing to pay much more for their fashion items either. On top of that a lot of people just want to wear something different every time and not wear just one or two outfits whole year around. And when it’s there in the shops AND it’s cheap……it’s hard to resist to not buy it, at least for a lot of people. So it’s very good to share this information and make people more aware of the hidden facts behind fashion industry.

    1. Hello, dear Angelique
      You are totally right, it’s not only the cheap clothing brands but also some really expensive. I’m about to write a post in the future about them too, so thank you for pointing it out.
      Thank you for the feedback, it was really nice that you took the time to write such a comment!

  8. Thank you for such an informative post. I think many people use fashion because they have a void to fill. We should be filling this void with emotional connection instead of fast fashion which brings the short term gratification you discuss here. I really like the video too.

    1. Hello dear Catherine,

      You have a great point here. Shopping is not enough to fill our emotional gaps, so we have to search for the meaning in other places.
      Thank you for stopping by.

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