In the present times, everything is fast paced, and what might be trendy one day, is kicked to the curb the other. The most common example of this is fashion, specifically fast-fashion. Fast-fashion is used to describe cheap, trendy clothing, which makes the journey from the runway, to your closet and then to the garbage dump, in the blink of an eye. These include brands like, H&M, Forever 21, ASOS, ZARA etc. They pump out new designs regularly to stay relevant amongst the younger generations, and you cannot escape it. Chances are, the clothes you’re wearing right now are from fast-fashion brands.
Now why is this problematic? By putting out new clothes every month or so, and using extremely clever marketing tactics, they’ve convinced the average consumer that their clothes are “outdated” and they need to keep purchasing from them to stay in trend, thereby maximising their profits every single time. But that isn’t even the worst part. To quench their never ending thirst for money, these brands utilise sweatshops for production of their clothing. A sweatshop is a factory where workers are severely underpaid, and the working conditions are inhumane, ranging from excruciatingly long working hours, to unsafe and unhygienic work environments. Sweatshops are usually placed in third world countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, China etc. where worker’s rights are minimal, where rich brands can get quick, inexpensive labour at the cost of actual human lives.
Since these clothes are mass produced and cheaply made, it is not surprising to know that they go bad after a couple of washes, and are no longer wearable. Each year, the average consumer throws away about 32 kilograms of clothing, adding to the already over filled landfills . It is estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than international flights and maritime ships combined. It also takes thousands of gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt and a pair of jeans, as they are made from a water intensive material-cotton. Further, textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water, leading to the fashion industry being responsible for 20% of the worlds water pollution.
As more and more people get aware of their malpractices, fast fashion brands resort to greenwashing, which is basically presenting a company as more eco friendly than it really is. They make false promises about making their products with organic cotton and recycled polyester. However, they fail to provide sufficient and definitive information, and refuse to specify how much of a garment is made with recycled material. Brands like LuLuLemon and H&M have been recently accused of greenwashing, yet their sales remain high.
It is saddening to see how many people are unaware of these evils, and those who are aware simply turn a blind eye to such issues. How can we prevent this? Our strongest weapon in this war against fast fashion is education. Educate yourself and those around you. Watch documentaries, read books and articles, and convince others around you to quit buying from such brands. Try reducing the number of shopping trips you take in a year. Another thing which can help is mending your old clothes, and wearing them at least 30-40 times to make the most out of them. Remember, every little step counts. Gone are the days when we were blind consumers. Now, the time has come for serious reforms.