The term “Fast Fashion” has become one of the latest buzz phrases in the fashion world and it’s not a flattering one. People often ask us, “What is Fast Fashion?”, “What does Fast Fashion mean?” So we are here to break down the good, the bad and the ugly. Spoiler alert: there is very little good…
First of all, what is fast fashion? Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing that takes ideas from high end fashion shows and turns them into garments at great speed to meet consumer demand. Some brands like Zara, H&M and SHEIN may turn out from 18 to 24 collections per year vs. “slower” fashion brands that may turn out 4-5 collections per year. The only “good” here is that fast fashion benefits the consumer that wants to stay dressed in the ever-changing trends without having to spend a fortune.
The “bad” of fast fashion is that the pressure to reduce costs and speed up production means environmental issues are not taken into consideration. Fast fashion is largely produced with cheap, toxic textile dyes, making the fashion industry one of the largest polluters of clean water globally. The speed at which garments are produced also means that more and more clothes are disposed of by consumers, creating massive textile waste. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second (UNEP, 2018)
Cheap textiles also contribute to the stress on the environment because they are derived from fossil fuels and can shed microfibers, which increase the amount of plastics in our oceans when the garments are washed. On a large fast fashion scale, even “natural” fabrics can be a problem. Conventional cotton requires enormous quantities of water and pesticides to produce. It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans (Tree Hugger)
The “ugly” of fast fashion is the human element. First and foremost, the garment workers who have been known to work in dangerous environments for low wages with a lot of pressure to keep churning out clothing at rapid rates. Most fast fashion is produced in countries where low wages and long hours are the norm and human rights are not valued. Secondly, fast fashion creates a culture of over-consumption, hence the reason why so much clothing is ending up in landfills. Fast fashion makes us believe we need to shop more and more to stay on top of trends, creating a constant sense of need to keep up appearances.
Reading this can feel very heavy and defeating but there are things you can start doing to change the trend. British designer Vivienne Westwood has been quoted to say, "buy less, choose well, make it last." So here are some ideas to help you follow Ms. Westwood's advice:
- Purchase from ethical and sustainable clothing companies that use high quality fabric and technology to give you much more wear out of your pieces. Examples of these brands include Eileen Fisher and Pact. Click HERE for more brands and why they are considered sustainable. You may pay more for these pieces at the frontend but they will likely last longer and are more eco-friendly.
- Follow all of the care tag instructions on your clothing. The more you pay attention to care tags and launder with the mildest detergents and avoid the dryer, the longer your clothes will last.
- Repurpose or upcycle your clothing. If you don’t like the way a piece fits anymore or it seems “out of style”, cut-off those skinny jeans to make shorts or take the fabric from a shirt and make a scarf. Even using old t-shirts as cleaning rags keeps you from purchasing cloth rags or paper towels more often.
- The Untamed Thread would be remiss if we did not mention that you can sell your unused clothing yourself or we do dabble in consignment, and/or donate your clothing for someone else who can wear it.
- And last but not least, consider shopping second hand as your FIRST option for purchasing clothing. Purchasing second hand not only reduces the demand for new clothing to be produced but it extends the lifecycle of clothing as much as possible, keeping it out of landfills. We wrote a blog about what to look for when shopping second hand so check that out HERE.
The Untamed Thread is a resource for some of these solutions and even if you do not consign, donate to or shop with us, there are so many other options out there for you to shop sustainably, extend the life cycle of your clothing and avoid the fast fashion world.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and we challenge you to start with a few small changes that will benefit the whole.