What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is defined as cheap trendy clothing, which often samples ideas from the catwalk and celebrity culture, and turns these ideas into garments widely available to the general public at breakneck speeds in order meet demands for current trends. The aim of fast fashion is to identify the newest styles and make them as fast as possible to meet the demands of shoppers hungry to jump onboard the newest trends at the height of their popularity. Fast fashion encourages the belief that to stay relevant you must keep up with the latest look. Fast fashion is fast in a number of senses: the rate of production is fast, the consumer’s decision to purchase the products is fast, the delivery is fast and the garments wear out fast. The whole process results in a toxic system of overproduction and overconsumption that has resulted in the fashion industry becoming one of the largest polluters in the world. It is estimated that the planet consumes 80 billion items of clothing each year, and as these new items of clothing are produced old garments are discarded at shocking rates, with the UK alone binning 3 hundred thousand tonnes of clothing each year.
Fast fashions impact on the planet is huge. The pressure to reduce costs and speed up production means that environmental and social corners are inevitably cut. The documentary 'The True Cost' is a great watch to learn more about the impacts of the fast fashion industry.
The fashion industry is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, produced by pumping water to irrigate cotton, harvesting machinery, transport and oil-based pesticides. And the textile production industry is a major contributor to climate change producing an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, that’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Conventional cotton is widely used in the fashion industry and although defined as a natural fabric the scale required for fast fashion has resulted in the use of enormous quantities of water, pesticides and insecticides. Approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides are used in the production of cotton and over 2,700 liters of water is required to grow enough cotton for just one t-shirt. Textile production also produces 20% of global water waste and is the second most polluting industry for water. The use of harsh chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides degrade the soil quality and runs off into local water systems, which alongside open loop water systems for textile dyes results in polluted rivers and damaged eco-systems.
In addition to conventional cotton, to keep prices as cheap as possible textiles such a polyester are often used. Polyester is derived from fossils fuels and not only contributes to global warming with a polyester shirt having double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt at 5.5kg CO2e to 2.1kg CO2e, but also results in the shedding of plastic microfibers which enter our water systems with each wash resulting in plastic pollution. These non-biodegradable microplastics have been found globally and between 20-30% of all primary source of microplastics in the marine environment are from synthetic clothing. These microplastics have even entered the food chain with still yet unknown risk to human and animal health.
Fast fashions use of toxic chemicals, dangerous dyes, and synthetic fabrics which seep into the water supply have also resulted in the fashion industry becoming the second largest polluter of clean water globally after agriculture. And not only are these chemicals released during production but once you have bought your garment and wash it at home it continues to release these harmful chemicals and microfibre's into the water supply.
Fast fashion brands rely on workforce compromises to produce their fast and cheap products, these compromises include overworked and underplayed staff. Each day 40 million workers endure poor conditions and earn an unfair wage to assemble garments. And this isn’t just in developing countries, it was recently discovered that workers in Boohoo’s Leicester factory were paid as little as £3.50 an hour. That’s under half the minimum wage for people 25 and over. And although studies have found the majority of garment workers are women ages 18-25, various countries have identified both child laborers and forced workers.
At the start of the supply chain are the farmers, who grow fibres which are turned into garments. These farmers are forced to work with many toxic chemicals with huge physical and mental costs, with The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating 20,000 deaths annually due to pesticide poisoning. Workers in textile factories also work in unsafe conditions, jeopardizing their health. Workers regularly breathe in dust and fibres from the textiles due to poor airflow in working spaces or come into contact with harsh chemicals used in the dying process. These conditions cause workers to suffer from respiratory diseases, cancers and reproductive issues. Alongside this the long working hours and repetitive nature of the work often results in physical strains.
Finally the rapid garment production and throw away culture often results in a lack of quality control, as such many garments are easily damaged and have sort lifespans. This throw away culture results in enough clothes to fill a garbage disposal truck being thrown away every second and some fashion brands even admit to throwing or burning unsold products in order to eliminate a discount market. Research shows only 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing at the end of its life and just 15% of people recycle their own clothing, despite evidence to suggest that extending the life of clothing items by just 9 months you could reduce carbon waste and water by 20-30% each.
So what can we do? In response to fast fashion the slow fashion movement has developed. This movement works towards mindful manufacturing, fair labour rights, natural materials and longer lasting garments. Slow fashion companies often use organic materials to lower the environmental impacts and tend to produce clothing in-house or locally allowing greater control over the supply chain, whilst encouraging consumers to be conscious about their decisions and purchases. This slow conscious fashion means that brands, communities and individuals are all joined together in fighting to protect the planet earth and its people.
We at Dumpstuff are a slow fashion company, we only use 100% organic cotton garments which are GOTS and fair wear approved, meaning the workers creating the garments work in safe conditions earning a fair wage. We hand print on these garments with water based inks in right where we started in the South West UK. We don’t hold vast amounts of stock or make more than we need and we donate or discount any misprints or products that don’t meet our strict quality control measurements and we encourage you to recycle or reuse and repurpose our products where possible.
To find out more about Fast fashion please visit https://goodonyou.eco/fast-fashion-facts/ or
https://ecothes.com/blog/eco-friendly-fashion-facts and https://sanvt.com/journal/environmental-impact-of-fast-fashion-infographic/ Or watch the documentary ‘The True Cost’ by Andrew Morgan.
To read more about Dumpstuff's sustainable practices head to our Sustainability section.