Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their clothes come from (Photo: Benji Haughton)
What is Fast Fashion?
In most layman’s terms, fast fashion is described as low-cost, trendy apparel that takes inspiration from the catwalk or celebrity culture and quickly transforms it into items at high-street retailers to fulfill customer demand (Rauturier, 2021). It is an important component of the poisonous system of overproduction and consumption that has made fashion one of the world's most polluting industries.
Consumers are often unmotivated to care for their clothing. They are very well aware that the next fashion trend is only around the horizon, and that their outfits will quickly become outdated, which implies they can get rid of them more quickly. The bulk of things in the fast fashion industry are neither recycled nor donated, instead, they are disposed of in landfills or burnt which is the fundamental flaw. Our garments can take up to 200 years to degrade, and because of this, our world is constantly being poisoned by more and more artificial stuff. Every link in the fast fashion cycle has significant environmental and socioeconomic implications (Young, 2020).
What Are the Implications of Fast Fashion?
Some of the ways in which fast fashion damages the environment are water usage, microfibres, greenhouse gases, deforestation, toxins, and human rights (Young, 2020). To begin with, the manufacturing process is very polluting, with factories dumping hazardous wastewater into rivers and pumping out millions of tonnes of glasshouse gases, all for the purpose of producing apparel that ends up in landfills, seas, or is burnt into our atmosphere. Another alarming truth is that fast fashion employs 8,000 distinct synthetic chemicals in its creation, many of which have been linked to cancer and other disorders in people.
The dyes that colour the garments, the corrosive finishing and bonding agents, and the synthetic fabrics themselves all contain these dangerous substances. Workers on the floors of fast fashion companies are continually exposed to these hazardous chemicals and inhale their vapours. Factory wastewater is discharged into our waterways and permeates into our agricultural systems.
Worst of all, the long-term implications of wearing these synthetic, chemical-covered garments on our exposed flesh are unknown; clothing tags do not include dietary details or health warnings. We only know that cancer-causing chemicals are at the heart of fast fashion and that they are actually destroying our world and people (The Impact of Fast Fashion, n.d.).
We squander away £140 million worth of wearable clothing each year, according to the charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and demand for raw materials is expected to quadruple by 2050.