Fast Fashion: Is It Really Worth It?
Shopping is a sport (yeah, I said it) that can so easily get out of hand—competitive even. It feels like we are constantly striving to be the first to try the latest trend, score the best deals, and know about cool new brands before everyone else. After a while, the hustling becomes exhausting and your closet suddenly looks like an assembly line of fast-fashion impulse buys and trends that had the lifespan of an fly. Satisfied? Hardly. Despite all the "stuff" you've acquired, you still find yourself wanting more. Historically, clothing has been something we have held onto for a long time, but with cheap clothing now abundantly available we are beginning to see the things we wear as disposable.
The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago. As new clothing comes into our lives, we also discard it at a shocking pace. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone.
We are also increasingly disconnected from the people who make our clothing on a daily basis. If you look at the tag of your favorite shirt from Zara (which, as a bonus, you got on sale), more than likely says that it was made in places like China, India, or Bangladesh. In fact, 97% of items are now made overseas and the problem doesn’t just end there. Ever wonder how these products are made so fast? Today, there are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in developed countries do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women. The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world.
"Currently total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production amount to 1.2 billion tonnes annually, according to new research from UNFCCC" -Global Fashion Agenda
Now, using the words slow and fashion in the same sentence may sound contradictory because, after all, isn't a constant need to buy newer, better things the very lifeblood of the fashion industry? Technically, yes, but I think we're all finally starting to wake up to the importance of sustainability within the industry and many designers are making huge strides in the progression of this sustainable movement. Many companies and designers today are establishing themselves and promoting their sustainable impact in the world, including Stella McCartney, Reformation, Patagonia, and many more while other considered fast-fashion brands are making reforms to their environmental footprint. Companies like Nike, H&M, and ASOS all occupy different corners of the fashion industry, but their CEOs have come together to agree on one important thing: the pressing need to address sustainability and fashion's enormous effect on climate change. They join other companies, including Target and PVH, in participating in the CEO Agenda 2019, which outlines eight specific priorities for fashion leaders. Organized by the nonprofit Global Fashion Agenda, the agenda asserts that addressing sustainability is a "business imperative" and not just a passing trend. The agreement details four priorities for companies to focus on: promote supply-chain traceability; combat climate change; use water, energy, and chemicals efficiently; and establish respectful and secure work environments. The four other priorities are a bit more long-term: utilize sustainable materials, achieve a circular fashion system, promote better wage systems, and embrace a new kind of industrial revolution brought on by technology (Global Fashion Agenda).
“Addressing sustainability is a ‘business imperative’ and not just a passing trend.” -Global Fashion Agenda
Overall, this isn’t a rant in the attempts to shame you for indulging in a fast-fashion buy every once in a while (We are all guilty of it). Instead, I am here to get you to start thinking about where your clothes come from and why. In case you're not even sure where to start, I started for you. Below are some of my favorite sustainable brands and some that are just now surfacing. Let’s start shopping!….consciously.