Maybe you are not familiar with the term “fast fashion”, but you do know what “fast food” is, right? If not, let us explain it to you. Fast food is a type of mass-produced meal designed for commercial resale and focused on serving and eating fast. It’s not concerned about your health or its impact on our planet. And, when it comes to Fast Fashion, the main concept is basically the same.
To make clothes cheaper and sell more and more, some companies adopted a business model that is focused only on the profit and, consequently, the amount of production. It’s not concerned about the employee’s situation, either its impact on the environment.
Summing it up, fast fashion, as said by Good on You, can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from fashion shows and celebrities, and turns them into mass products. With over 12 collections per year, these stores have the goal to get the newest styles on the market as fast as possible. But, this model of business has brought a series of social and sustainable problems.
Fast fashion offers low costs, but also low quality and more textile waste
The math is simple: with the fast fashion industry concerned only about selling, to make the business run, it’s important to create the product as cheaply as possible. And, to reduce its costs, an alternative is to lower its quality. It means that after using a few times, fast fashion T-shirts, for example, they will wear out, get ugly, tear and/or even fade the color, and, with that, the items end up becoming completely disposable.
Basically, if you buy a product with a short service life, soon it will be thrown away, producing more trash and polluting the environment more and more, after all, we are talking about the disposal of clothes on a world scale.
How did Fast Fashion begin?
Before the 1800s, fashion was slow. People didn’t buy as much as today, and when they did, the majority of the purchases would come from small artisanal stores, with high-quality materials and production.
As said in The History of Fashion: From the 1900s to Today, after the Industrial Revolution, new technologies were adopted, like the sewing machine. Making clothes became easier, cheaper, and quicker. Dressmaking shops emerged to cater for the middle classes and soon the demand started increasing. Around this time, sweatshops emerged, along with problems with the working conditions of employees and rampant consumption.
With that, the fast fashion phenomenon emerged not only to fulfill the consumer’s demand, once the clothes were cheaper and people were buying more and more, but also the companies and brands were so focused on the profits, that they left behind important points such as employees rights and the environmental impact.
Environmental and social impact
Clothing production consumes resources and contributes to climate change. According to Fashion Revolution, the raw materials used to make fast fashion clothes require land and water, or the extraction of fossil fuels. This means that the production itself is already cruel to the environment.
Also, as said, the products are disposable. Once the material doesn’t have quality, after a couple of times using a piece of clothing, it will have to be put away. That practice increased the amount of textile waste.
The bad impact of fast fashion doesn’t leave behind the social impact issues. To ensure the small prices of the clothes, the employees in this industry work in conditions similar to slavery, receiving ridiculous wages and putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk.
All this is evidenced in the documentary The True Cost. The movie shows the reality of these workers and also talks about the Rana Plaza tragedy, in which over 1,000 men and women lost their lives while making our clothes.
Fashion is to love but it is also about human rights, sustainability, and social impact. It needs a change and it’s up to us to make this revolution in the fashion industry, by maintaining its profits, but, mostly, making it more transparent, honest, and socially responsible