The atrocity of fast fashion & what to do about it

In the current time, every day seems to bring with it a whirlpool of new fashion trends. Fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M are changing their designs almost every week, supplying us with trendy pieces at an affordable price. So what’s the problem here? The low price that we pay for our garments cannot justify the high price that the planet and garment workers have to pay.

Source: LawNet

Here are some reasons why we should quit fast fashion immediately:

1. 93% of brands aren’t paying their workers a living wage

Big fashion brands often employ garment workers from Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, China, Indonesia, and more at a very low wage rate to decrease their operation cost. We can get clothes for a cheaper price because these companies are cutting off wages from their workers, who have to work up to 12 hours a day in unsafe conditions. The next time you’re tempted to buy an item because it’s “a steal,” remember that it can only be so because the manufacturer is literally stealing somebody’s livelihood.

2. Fashion production is a huge contributor to climate change

Fashion is the third biggest manufacturing industry, generating an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emission. By 2030, the industry is estimated to emit as much CO2 as the US’s current emission. The chemical dyes, non-biodegradable fabric, and production waste thrown into water streams are polluting our Earth at an alarming rate, unproportionally affecting developing countries like Vietnam.

3. 3 out of 5 fast fashion item ends up in a landfill within a year of purchase

To increase their sales, fast fashion brands frequently release new items to create trends and push old items out of style. A survey found that 1 in 3 young women consider an item worn once or twice to be old, especially under the influence of social media where no one wants to be photographed wearing the same thing twice. Clothes thrown away by consumers and shops lead to a $500 billion loss in value every year and pile up landfills.

4. Synthetic fabric make up over a third of microplastics in the ocean

To minimize their costs, fast fashion manufacturers mostly use synthetic fabric, which sheds microplastic every time it’s worn or washed. One polyester garment can shed millions of microplastic in its lifetime. Most synthetic fabrics are also derived from oil, which takes more than 200 years to decompose.

Sounds quite horrible, but if we aren’t relying on these brands for clothing, what should we do instead?

5. Change your conception on the lifespan of clothing items

Invest in quality over quantity. Before you buy a garment, make sure that it’s durable and fitting with your style enough so that you can wear it for a long period of time.

6. Buy less

Curate a closet with fewer staple items that can be mixed and matched, and do not run after trends. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself: “Do I really need this? How many times am I going to wear it? Does its use justify the resources that went into making it?”

7. Thrift and wear secondhand

We can still dress stylish and preserve a sense of individual style while pursuing sustainable fashion. When you want to buy specific items that are in style, try thrift stores, in person or online.

8. Buy crafts & local

Another way to build a sustainable closet with an individualized touch is to support your local garment makers and craftsmen, who design and make their products by hand. You’re likely to find unique items that suit your taste, can be tailored to your body, and made with quality materials. This method of production is slow and generates little to no carbon footprint. Look around social media and you’ll be surprised at how many talented creators there are in your vicinity, waiting for your support! (hint: I might be one of them)

A lifestyle change from fast fashion to sustainable fashion will take time and effort, but it is a necessary change to make in honor of the planet and the millions of garment workers, who might even be living within our communities.