Photo Source: Gina Richards / The Depaulia
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
The term fast fashion refers to clothing that is inexpensive and produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Fast fashion brands will recreate former high fashion designs in a way that makes it accessible to people who may not be able to afford designer but wish to be trendy. Well hey, that actually sounds awesome doesn't it?
Making designer styles affordable is a really great idea. But, the reality of the situation is that these brands cannot possibly mass produce these clothes for that price and remain ethical at the same time. So let's break down why fast fashion is quite horrible, not only for the planet, but for the people making the garments. and what we can do to try our best not to support the fast fashion industry.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT?
The fashion industry already makes up for a tenth of the worlds carbon emissions. Fast fashion has a large environmental footprint with both its disposal and production. Clothing production requires a large amount of energy and resources. It also uses toxic fabric dyes and other chemicals that contaminate fresh water.
Textile dyeing produces 20 percent of global wastewater, the second most polluting industry for water. That same water is released directly into rivers and streams, making the risk of exposure to heavy metals for both people and animals in the surrounding areas higher.
Huge amounts of waste are also produced in the disposal side of clothing. Every second, enough clothing to fill a garbage truck full is either burned or sent to a landfill. A lot of companies have also been known for burning unsold and returned items as a means of disposal. At an Amazon warehouse in Scotland, a former employee has said that they were instructed to burn 130,000 items in one week, making that more than a million items per year. Sadly, it's not only fast fashion companies doing this, but some higher end ones as well. Other companies being accused of this are: Burberry, H&M, Nike, Eddie Bauer, Michael Kors, Victorias Secret and many more.
So not only are these clothes made with toxic dyes, that pollute water, but when they're burned, that is also released into the air. Is that $20 dress you bought for your birthday really worth it?
Clothing piled in a landfill. (Source: Textile Mountain Film)
WHY ARE THEIR WORK PRACTICES UNETHICAL?
While the most fashion is consumed in the U.S., 90 percent of the world’s clothing is produced in low- and middle-income countries. Each day, 40 million workers endure poor working conditions and earn unfair wages to assemble garments.
For example workers in Bangladesh only make about $96 per month (not even enough to afford basic needs). The majority of garment workers are women from the ages of 18-24, however, a number of countries have been implicated in both forced and child labor. These countries include Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Vietnam and others according to a 2018 U.S. Department of Labour Report. It's estimated that there are 168 million victims of child labour world wide. Sub-Saharan African has seen the largest increase in the number of children involved in child labour since 2012. This region has more child labourers than in the rest of the world combined. Not to mention, in the aftermath of COVID-19, rising poverty will push an estimated 9 million additional children into child labour by the end of 2022.
Not only are they not paid enough to live, but life threatening health standards and workplace accidents continue to be major concerns for these workers. They have no choice but to breathe in dust and fibre from the textiles due to poor air-flow in the factories. Because of this, workers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, cancer and reproductive issues. The work can also be very physically exhausting due to repetition.
Shein for example, is known to have lack of transparency when it comes to giving information about their production and supply chain. They do however now state on their website "We never. EVER. Engage in child labour or forced labour". That's great, except it completely disregards the fact that child labour laws vary from country to country, and on their website, Shein only says that they ship from many of their "globally positioned warehouses" and will not actually say where they are located. Global supply chains are complex and more often than not, child labour is hidden and connected to a range of other labour abuses within supply chains.
Source: About Us / SHEIN
WHAT CAN CONSUMERS DO?
We understand that a lot of people purchase fast fashion because of affordability and inclusivity. A lot of fast fashion companies carry a great plus-size range for an affordable price. So if you are choosing to purchase from brands like Shein for this purpose, that's totally understandable. We always suggest shopping second hand as an alternative, but again, thrift stores don't have great options for plus size bodies. But here are some other examples of how you can shop smart:
- Buy fewer items, and items that can go with multiple things in different outfits
- Buy higher quality classics that will last a long time and not fall apart after one wash.
- Wait a day to order to avoid impulse buying
- Renew your closet by having a clothing swap with friends
- Adjust clothing you already have as your body changes. Tailor, mend, or try getting it turned into something that fits you now
Fast fashion is accessible to everyone and that's why people continue to purchase it. We just want to make people aware of what is going into what you're purchasing, and how it has major ripple affects you do not see.
Moving forwards, if you want to shop these sites for affordability or inclusivity, just be a more mindful/smart shopper. Try to only buy things you'll get a lot of wears out of, and not throw out when the next trend comes along. If you do get rid of any items, please donate it to a thrift store that ALSO donates to another organization (because not all do). We of course always recommend shopping sustainable and made to order (wink wink) and we think we all need to do our part to save the planet, and prevent unethical work practices!
Jouxvel The Brand