Consumerism & Fast Fashion
If you feel like the fashion world is moving at warped speed, switching out seasonal clothing items far beyond the usual spring/summer and fall/winter collections, you are not alone. The concept of “fast fashion” — where clothes (and concepts) move almost instantly from runway designers’ collections onto store shelves or into our online carts — is big business. There is no longer any lag time from what you see on the runway to what you can find in the store, accelerating this “insta” world we live in. With brick and mortar stores competing with online start-ups, the all-mighty dollar has never been more important or more up for grabs.
So, should fast fashion be viewed as something negative? I mean, we all love a deal, and if we can get a look off the runway for a fraction of the price without having to wait for next season, why shouldn’t we, right? Well, to borrow a quote from Lucy Siegle: “Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying.” And it isn’t just the major designers suffering from the knock-offs. Have you ever thought to ask where your clothes are actually being made? Or more importantly, who might have made that item hanging in your closet?
There once was a time when clothing was fiercely thought of as an investment and the chain of production was not that long; you could almost see all the people benefiting from your one purchase. Now, clothing shopping is more of a pastime or recreational sport, where you rummage through a $9.99 rack of t-shirts for something new to wear while avoiding the mess in your closet or your laundry hamper. Consider how much profit is really being made from that item. Look at the price tag, the quality and where it was produced. How can that $10 be stretched from retailer all the way to the single hands that made your mass-produced item? It doesn’t take long to realize that small amount you paid isn’t going to make it all that far.
The point is — much like Lucy Siegle alluded to — cheap clothing is cheap for a reason. Mass-produced items at discounted prices drive down quality and force competitors to do the same just to compete in retail markets around the world. What else does it do? It also drives up waste. In North America alone, we collectively send nearly 9.5 million tonnes of clothing to city landfills. Of that amount, a staggering 95 per cent can either be reused or recycled (think, cotton is a natural material).
So how do we stop this? Well, there are tons of answers that go along with eliminating the tonnes of clothing taking up space in the landfills all over the world, not just North America. The best answer I can come up with? Become a conscious consumer. Give a damn where your clothing is being made. Research your favourite brands and retailers to make sure they are making ethical decisions when it comes to mass production and are green thinking, promoting sustainability within their organizations.
As well, be okay with spending a few extra dollars on quality products. This will actually save you money in the long run because you won’t have to replace the poor quality jeans that rip or the polyester blend dress pants that pill after three wears and two washes. But more importantly, ask yourself if you really need to buy more new clothes. There are so many unique alternatives to spending new: borrow from a friend, buy second-hand from a chic thrift store or set up a clothing swap with friends and family.
The only way to change an industry and demand more ethical and sustainable ways of doing business is to make positive changes in your life that will positively impact the community you live in. Creating new norms at home will ripple out into society.
Buy less, choose well, make it last —Vivienne Westwood
FAST FASHION FACTS
- Garment workers make as little as $3 to $5 per day in unregulated factories
- 85 per cent of those workers are women and children
- The majority of the world’s clothing production is outsourced to China and Bangladesh
- Americans buy 80 billion new pieces of garments each year
- Globally in 2015, 1.2B tonnes of carbon emissions were produced related to fashion industry production
- Local, independent retailers suffer from fast fashion prices