Fast Fashion: What is it and Why Should We Care?
Did you know that Australians buy roughly 60 pounds of clothes per year? Or that globally, we work our way through 80 billion items of clothing every year? That’s a 400% increase since two decades ago and, whilst we could blame some of that on a rising population, it’s also due to our unsustainable consumption habits encouraged by fast fashion culture.
Luckily, times are changing. In response to numerous fashion industry scandals and inhumane sweatshop conditions revealed by the media over recent years, worldwide campaigns began to push for change. These efforts have enabled various alternative systems that endeavour to make fashion more ethical and sustainable.
But what exactly is fast fashion? What consequences does it have? Why should we care? And what are the alternatives?
The True Cost of Fast Fashion
The clue is in the name: fast fashion. Everything about it is fast. From the rate of production to the split-second decision we make to purchase something online, the speed of delivery, and the time it takes for us to throw it away and replace it with something new and on-trend.
We’re all guilty of wanting to look our best. It can be so difficult to stay up-to-date with the latest fashion trends and fast fashion is tantalizingly cheap and accessible! However, in the words of Lucy Siegal, “Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere, is paying.”
Whilst there are many consequences of fast fashion (we could really lead you down the rabbit hole here), we’ve listed a few of the most unsustainable and unethical below.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to industries that damage the environment. For example, roughly half of all textiles are made from cotton, which accounts for 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of its pesticides!
Furthermore, toxic chemicals are also used in the production of fabrics as well as the growth of the fibres. The tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh, dump 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste into Buriganga (the city’s main river and water supply) every day! Not only does this unethical waste damage the environment, but they put entire populations at risk from exposure to toxic chemicals.
Probably one of the most talked-about consequences of fast fashion: human rights violations. From hazardous work conditions to modern slavery, child labour, immigrant exploitation, abuse, unsustainable working hours, and unethical wages, many people who work for the fashion industry suffer for our clothes.
It’s not just the sweatshops that employ these unethical practices; the entire supply chain is guilty, including the raw material production, garment manufacture, and post-production stages.
Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink...fast fashion isn’t helping matters and is the second-largest consumer of water globally, using between 6-9 trillion litres per year. This unsustainable system is leading to one of the biggest threats to humanity, with two-thirds of the world’s population expected to face water shortages by 2025.
Under the “New in Today” category on Pretty Little Thing’s website, there are 236 items listed! That’s hundreds of new products designed every day to meet the requirements of fast fashion, which is totally not sustainable. What’s more, speedy production leads to poor quality and low durability garments, meaning that it’s not uncommon to find a tear in your t-shirt after just one wear!
So what happens to all of these clothes after we finish with them? Unfortunately, they’re often tossed onto landfill. In fact, according to the EPA, textiles have one of the worst recycling rates of any reusable material. And of course, many modern fabrics contain plastic, which will not biodegrade.
Based on the above, it’s easy to see how fast fashion is contributing to climate change. According to Business Insider, the industry accounts for 10% of the world’s total carbon footprint! In order to slow and potentially reverse the process of climate change, we must act fast to ensure that we implement a more sustainable system for fashion.
The Solution? Ethical and Sustainable Fashion
It’s amazing to see so many brands and consumers pushing for more ethical and sustainable fashion in recent years, but what do those terms mean exactly? And do they actually make a difference?
What is Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?
Let’s look at the definitions of each term according to the Cambridge Dictionary:
Sustainable = “causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”
Ethical = “relating to beliefs about what is morally right and wrong”
Ethical and sustainable fashion is a resolution to reduce the negative impacts on the environment whilst maximizing benefits to the industry, all those associated with it, and the wider community. This should apply throughout the whole supply chain, from designing to sourcing, manufacturing, and post-production.
How Can I Tell if Something is Ethical and Sustainable?
There are a few criteria that allow you to assess whether or not a brand fits in with the above definitions. Here are our suggestions to help you decide if a company is doing its best:
Beach Bums and Feels Sustainable and Ethical Swimwear
At Beach Bums and Feels, we use ECONYL to make our ethical and sustainable swimwear. Recognized as one of the best recycled synthetics fibres, it’s made from waste plastic recovered from fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. What’s more, due to the great condition of the fabric, our swimwear can be recycled an infinite amount of times without losing quality - contributing towards a circular economy.
We use King Trading to create our garments, which is an ethical and environmentally-friendly company that produces zero waste by ensuring its leftover fabric scraps are used by the local community. They only work with the best Indonesian suppliers on the island, ensure safe and pleasant working conditions for their employees, and provide full medical insurance for their workers and immediate family members.
Check out our full range of sustainable and ethical swimwear, today!