Clothing retailers coined the term “fast fashion” in the late 1990s. The phrase describes the rapid turnover of designs in the fashion industry. A fast fashion retailer can receive new designs from a fashion designer, turn them around in a matter of weeks, and get them into their stores.
The term implies that fashion trends move quickly and that retailers who sell fast fashion can respond promptly to those trends and get the latest styles into their stores quickly and cheaply.
The environmental impact of fast fashion
The environmental impacts of fast fashion are huge. The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
It is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally, after agriculture. It takes 700 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans. The average person in the US throws away about 80 pounds of used clothing per year. Most of that clothing ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
This pollution is not just an environmental issue; it has a significant impact on the people who work in the fashion industry and the people who buy the clothing.
The social impact of fast fashion
The rapid turnover of clothing in the fast fashion industry has a substantial social impact. It contributes to the culture of over-consumption and wastefulness that is harmful to the environment and the people who produce and wear the clothing. It creates an unsustainable cycle of consumerism and production that harms workers in the clothing industry and the communities where fast fashion retailers are located.
The economic impact of fast fashion
The economic impact of fast fashion is significant. It drives down prices so quickly that it is often difficult for retailers to make a profit. This drives down the quality of the clothing that is available and undermines the viability of traditional clothing retailers.
It contributes to the culture of over-consumption and wastefulness that is harmful to the environment and the people who produce and wear the clothing.
The countries most impacted by fast fashion are the ones where the clothing is produced: Bangladesh, China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia. These countries have the lowest wages in the world, and the working conditions are often poor. Fast fashion retailers are often located in affluent countries, and the people who buy the clothing are usually unaware of how their purchase impacts the people who made it.
What can be done to slow fast fashion?
You can do a few things to help slow the impact of fast fashion. One is to buy less clothing. It may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that the clothing industry is driven by consumer demand. The industry will have to slow down if we all buy less clothing.
You should support sustainable and ethical brands and buy higher-quality clothing that will last longer.
Take care of your clothing and try to donate, sell or recycle used clothing instead of throwing it away.
It’s important to be aware of fast fashion’s impacts and make conscious choices about the clothing we buy. By making these choices, we can positively impact the environment and the people affected by the fast fashion industry.