Fast Fashion As Defined By Its Impact
In our everyday lives, the phrase “fast fashion” does not come up very often. We are accustomed to the products and brands that surround us and due to the nature of our busy lives; we do not normally question the process of how those products came to be. We go into a store, look for the best bargain, and leave. The reality is that fast fashion is creating an epidemic of over consumption and excess waste, among other concerns such as worker safety and air pollution. A phrase that so rarely crosses our path is quickly harming our economy and environment, and here’s why.
The phrase fast fashion came to existence for the exact reason you would think; it was used to describe a practice where fashion designers and clothing labels would utilize cheap labor to allow for the lines that had just been shown on the catwalk to enter stores immediately for consumers. This is highly beneficial for the label to gain immediate revenue and capitalize on a brand new trend, but as the practice grew it began to destroy environments and economies in other countries. Large warehouses in countries that have low regulations on worker safety were erected quickly and the health of those workers was disregarded in order to gain the highest production turn around. The practice also contributed to heavy air pollution and outright disposable fashion, leading to an excess of waste.
The environmental impact of fast fashion is caused by overproduction, but also by transportation. The practice creates the need for items to be transported often on a global scale by truck, airplane, or tanker, which cause heavy air pollution. Each stage of production using machines causes pollution, but the transportation leaves the highest impact. Toxic air pollutants released from highway vehicles, airplanes, ocean vessels and trains are associated with cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. Not to mention these toxins causing a decrease in agriculture due to acid rain and lack of available clean oxygen. These toxins also contribute to water pollution, poor soil quality and biodiversity causing many species to become extinct due to large changes in their natural habitats.
The most well known impact is on the workers themselves. The fashion world is sustained by a group of about 40 million garment workers and approximately 30 million home based workers. The garment workers are categorized as Cut, Make and Trim (CMT) and the home based workers are mostly women who bead and embroider. Since these workers are in countries where wages are low and regulations are almost non-existent, they are often forced to work long hours with no breaks to fill orders. Cases of abuse and “lock-ins” have been reported often as well, with workers being intimidated or even violently treated to stay and finish their jobs. This leads to over exhaustion and increased accidents resulting in serious injury or fatality. One of the most well known cases of under regulation is the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Room for Change
The fast fashion epidemic is certainly large and quickly growing, but many leaders in the fashion industry are standing up against it and there is opportunity for change in the industry. Campaigns against fast fashion are growing to increase awareness, and consumers are beginning to be more educated on their products and where they came from. As we approach the end of 2014 and the beginning of a new year, we can only hope that social awareness increases and the harmful practice of fast fashion comes to a halt. Join us in raising awareness and standing up for healthy, enjoyable lives for workers all over the globe.