• Macy Scruggs

Fast Fashion: An Industry that Destroys the Environment and Humanity


In today’s society, we are constantly being fed the narrative of needing to be 'on-trend'. With YouTubers, influencers, and advertisements constantly bombarding our screens, we are purchasing at a higher rate than ever. Because of this demand, fast fashion has taken over the industry.


Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” At first glance, this doesn’t sound so bad. However, the cheap price of fast fashion comes at a high price - it is merely a distraction from what goes on behind the scenes.


Ethical Implications

In order for brands to be able to sell clothing at such a cheap price, their production has to be even cheaper. As a result, big corporations turn to illegal and inhumane practices. Garment workers are forced to work in dangerous, appalling environments whilst being underpaid and overworked. With no other options for work, people in developing countries (and even America) are exploited by the fashion industry - this includes children, as well. So if you’re upset with the poor stitching on your $12 bikini, don’t be - the worker is only a child.

  • A 2016 investigation found that FashionNova’s factory workers make as little as $2.77 per hour.

  • In April of 2013, 1,132 garment factory workers were killed and 2,500 injured when the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed - Primark, Walmart, The Children’s Place, J.C. Penny, and more were all companies outsourcing from this factory.

  • In early 2013, 112 workers at the Tazreen Fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh died in a factory fire.

  • The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is just $67 a month.

  • Self-employed women and girls in India earn between $0.13 and $0.15 per hour for their work.

  • In India, most garment workers earn less than $2 a day and in Pakistan, they make less than $1 a day.

  • Children are often hired to pick cotton, as they are seen as more suited due to the smaller size of their fingers.

  • Factory workers are continuously and knowingly exposed to toxic chemicals and substances that harm their respiratory system.

  • Workers regularly face physical and verbal abuse. There have been reports of workers being denied water and breaks as a consequence for not producing a set amount of pieces.

  • In Los Angeles, fast fashion’s “dirty secret," factory workers are paid $5 an hour and are forced to work 12-hour shifts.

  • American garment factory workers are paid out an average of three cents per piece produced.


Environmental Impact

As if the ethical implications weren’t enough, fast fashion also takes a serious toll on our environment. The fashion industry is the second largest contributor to pollution in the world, the first being the oil industry. How is that so? Check out the following statistics:

  • It is estimated that 8-10 percent of all CO2 emissions come from the fashion industry alone, that’s 4-5 billion tons per year.

  • The fashion industry uses 79 trillion liters of water per year and is responsible for approximately 20 percent of industrial water pollution through the use of textile treatments and dyes.

  • It is common for this contaminated water filled with lead, mercury, arsenic, etc. to be dumped directly into the rivers (which serves as a water source) of the developing countries where the clothing is typically made.

  • The industry is responsible for around 35 percent of oceanic microplastic pollution.

  • The fashion industry produces and sells 80 to 150 billion garments each year, twice as much since the year 2000.

  • Over 92 million tons of textile waste is produced each year, with the average American contributing about 82 pounds (per year).

  • More than half of the clothing is disposed of within a year of its purchase.

  • Consumers around the world throw away an approximated $460 billion worth of clothing every year.

  • On average, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pair of jeans and 400 gallons to produce one cotton t-shirt.

  • The average article of clothing is worn only 7 times.

  • The average-sized households can reduce their carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds a year by eliminating the use of a dryer - whilst prolonging the lifespan of their garments and saving money (approximately $200 a year).


Greenwashing vs. Greentailing

It’s no secret that people are (slowly) beginning to become more conscious of what they’re purchasing, and big brands are noticing. In an effort to appeal to the eco-conscious buyer and remain a reputable brand, companies are participating in “greenwashing.”


Greenwashing is essentially an attempt to mislead and/or deceive customers when it comes to their environmental practices. By appealing to consumers’ desire and higher likelihood to purchase products that don’t harm the environment, the companies expand their target audience and ring in even more sales.

Brands that engage in greenwashing are only trying to make themselves look better, not do better. And with no legal definitions for terms like “sustainable,” “green,” and “environmentally friendly”, brands can easily (and legally) use them as a marketing tactic even if there is nothing to support their (false) claims.


For example, Urban Outfitters continuously sells various t-shirts with slogans that are pro-environment, yet these same shirts are made from non-organic cotton and are a brand that offers no transparency when it comes to their material sourcing and practices. They even have an entire 'eco-friendly kitchen' section on their site yet make no actual effort to reduce their harmful impact on the environment.

Greentailing, on the other hand, is what greenwashing pretends to be. It is a brand’s legitimate concern in regards to environmental responsibility and the actions they take to minimize and/or eliminate their carbon footprint as well as what they do to protect and benefit the environment. These companies are often more transparent, sharing their environmental impact directly to their customers.


Though greenwashing is shady and should be frowned upon, it does help place the idea of purchasing in consumer’s minds. And hopefully, it foreshadows future practices and plans from these brands - but that’s not guaranteed.


Sustainable Fashion

It can be difficult to differentiate the good guys from the bad ones, so we’ve created the ultimate guide to shopping sustainably. But keep in mind, the most impactful thing you can do is reducing how much you consume - specifically firsthand. Secondhand shopping, or thrifting, is by far the best, most sustainable option. There are even apps that let you do this all online; some of our favorites are Depop and ThreadUp.


Clothes:

Swimwear:

Lingerie:

Activewear:

Shoes:

  • Veja | Price $100 - $290

  • Womsh | Price $225 - $305

Jewelry:

Designer:


Brands To Boycott:

  • H&M

  • Urban Outfitters

  • Free People

  • Anthropologie

  • Boohoo

  • Misguided

  • PrettyLittleThing

  • Forever21

  • PrincessPolly

  • TigerMist

  • & Other Stories

  • Shein

  • Zaful

  • Romwe

  • TopShop

  • Victoria’s Secret

  • Fashion Nova

  • Gap

  • Zara

  • Primark

  • Mango

  • NastyGal

  • Abercrombie & Fitch

  • Hollister

  • American Apparel

  • CottonOn

  • American Eagle

  • GUESS Inc.

  • PacSun

  • Walmart

Yes, these brands are typically more expensive; however, they are priced fairly when taking into account the humane and livable wages for the people who made them. If you are paying the same amount for a shirt as you are for your morning cup of coffee, it’s safe to say that someone else is paying the real price. Choosing to forego fast fashion, even if it’s only every once in a while, can make a huge impact. Buy what you believe in - not what you choose to ignore. Remember, you are never too small to make a difference.


Educate Yourself

There is so much more to fast fashion than what is covered in this blog - we’ve only scratched the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about fast fashion and it’s consequences, these are some great resources.


Online Resources:

  • Good On You - Your go-to guide when your curious about a brand’s practices.

  • Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index - This index rates how transparent (or secretive) brands are when it comes to their practices and material sourcing.

  • The Clean Clothes Campaign - An organization dedicated to improving working conditions in the fashion industry, they also have great educational reads.

  • The Good Trade - A great and extensive blog with endless resources on sustainable living.

  • Ethical Made Easy - A comprehensive ethical brand directory with over 120 brands, they have lots of discount codes too!

Documentaries:

  • The True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan

  • Machines, directed by Rahul Jain

  • The Machinist, directed by Hannah Majid and Richard York

  • RiverBlue, directed by David McIlvride and Roger Williams

  • Slowing Down Fast Fashion, directed by Alex James

Books:

  • How To Break Up With Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo

  • Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline

  • Slave To Fashion by Safia Minney

  • Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics by Safia Minney

  • Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan

  • The Dangers of Fashion by Sara B. Marcketti and Elena Karpova

  • Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas

Instagram Accounts to Follow:

Now that you know the high price that really comes with fast fashion, what will you do with this information? Let us know over on our Instagram, @thisisuproar, and feel free to give us a follow!


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