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Fast Fashion: Brands, Concept, Environmental & Social Impact

Fast fashion is a method involving design, manufacture and marketing of products, focused on high and rapid production of garments. This method of garment production leverages a replication and repetition of trends and propagates use of low-quality materials in order to meet with high volumes of inexpensive clothing for the customer.

The trademark characteristics of Fast Fashion are:
• Fast changing trends
• Fast production
• Fast sale and delivery
• Fast use

The several severe problems that come with Fast Fashion are:

1. Textile Waste

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 17 million tons of textile waste were generated in 2018, of which only 2.5 million tons were recycled. The issue of accumulating textile waste also amplifies microfiber pollution at the poles, which constitutes a serious global pollution threat.

2. CO2 Emissions

The bulk of waste in landfills from fast fashion has an impact on the environment through carbon emissions. The fashion industry is responsible for near about 10% of global CO2 emissions each year. That is nearly more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Researches claim and warn that if things don’t change, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.
Carbon emissions occur during transportation from factories to retail outlets. Then they occur again by the consumer during purchase, either in person or online. They can occur a final time when the consumer discards the product and it is taken to a landfill or sometimes burned.

3. Water Pollution

In addition to CO2 pollution, these clothing items can contribute to marine pollution. Clothes made from synthetic fabrics usually contain microplastics. When washed or discarded in a landfill and subjected to rains, plastic microfiber are flushed into wastewater systems and eventually make their way out into the ocean.

4. Unsafe Labour Conditions

In order to mass produce garments at such a high rate, procedures followed aren’t always ethical. Factories are in unsafe conditions where laborer’s work for low wages and long hours. Workers can be exposed to caustic chemicals and dyes and may work in dangerous situations where safety may not be a concern.

With an increased number of fashion brands now operating on fast fashion, it is important to know key factors common to them:

  • A multitude of styles which make sure to touch upon all of the latest trends.
  • An extremely short turnaround time between when a product or garment is seen on launching media and when it hits the shelves.
  • Usually, an offshore manufacturing unit where labour is available at cheaper rates.
  • Use of lower quality materials like polyester. This causes clothes to degrade after just a few wears and be discarded. It also adds immensely to the microfibre pollution, which is a global issue.

It is important to note that most of the fashion sector now caters to fast fashion. There is a slew of popular brands that can be called advocates of this ill-trend chasing way of garmenting. Forever 21, In the Style, I Saw it First, Misguided, Shein are some of the most common names.

As conditions worsen and times get more dire, awareness amongst consumers is an increasing necessity. A quote by British designer Vivienne Westwood, “buy less, choose well, make it last.”, sums up what we must now do as a race for curbing fast fashion.

Photo by Rio Lecatompessy on Unsplash