Last update on: 4:38 pm June 24, 2022 by fashionabc

Numerous industries have been experiencing rapid growth over the past few years, though often at a cost. Take the gambling industry. With so many online casinos available and new options constantly popping up for players looking for fresh new sites, it can be difficult to discern which to trust and which to avoid. Similarly, the rise of fast fashion in the fashion industry means that while brands and style choices are abundant, finding quality pieces for the same low prices can be challenging. There are several dangers linked to the rise of fast fashion that we will discuss below.

Background

Fast fashion brands such as H&M, Zara, Topshop, and Urban Outfitters use cheap materials and labor to produce and mimic current fashion trends at the lowest possible prices. They tend to appeal to younger generations and those who want to stay on top of trends without having to pay the prices associated with more expensive brands. As a result, brands that prioritize using quality materials and upholding honest and fair labor laws are being pushed aside as consumers opt for brands that offer stylish pieces at a fraction of the price. Garments are produced and consumed at an increasingly rapid rate but are often never used for more than a season before being discarded as waste. The dangers of this movement are many, as the fashion industry is being revolutionized at a cost to the environment and human rights.

Labor Exploitation

While some may argue that the increase in fast fashion creates jobs and can be good for economies, a closer look at the practices used by some of the major players in fast fashion reveals the negative impact on human rights. Companies such as Shein are notorious for underpaying manufacturers and subcontracting in developing countries where regulation is lacking. In countries such as Bangladesh, pay for workers is often minimal, forcing them to live in poverty. Working conditions in textile factories are often such that workers, predominantly women and children, are cramped together and exposed to dangerous chemicals and dyes, potentially compromising their long-term health. Workers are often forced to work long hours and overtime to meet strict production deadlines, driving them to exhaustion – both mentally and physically. This exploitation and abuse of human rights is just one of the dangers of fast fashion.

Environmental Harm

The fashion industry is known to be one of the world’s greatest polluters, and with the rise of fast fashion, the problem is only getting worse. First, the chemicals used in textile dyes are highly toxic and make up 20% of all global wastewater. Unfortunately, countries where many garments are made have limited regulations surrounding wastewater disposal, creating the potential for water contamination. Next, textile waste and the disposable nature of fast fashion means that garments often end up in landfills and oceans not long after they are purchased. Due to the cheap materials used to make the garments, they are often only worn once or twice before being thrown out. Made up of inexpensive synthetic materials, garments cannot be recycled. Microplastics used in the materials then make their way into oceans, contaminating the water and damaging marine life. Another environmental consequence is the rapid consumption-disposal cycle characteristic of fast fashion. The constant production of clothing is incredibly energy-intensive, leading to excessive carbon emissions. Constantly transporting clothing across the globe only further contributes to carbon emissions and negatively impacts climate change.

Cultural Shift

Fast fashion’s disregard for sustainability, which has led to devastating environmental consequences and serious human rights concerns, has also created a cultural shift. Teens and those in their early twenties, fast fashion’s target market, have embraced a culture of disposable fashion. Fast fashion’s low prices and speedy deliveries allow for instant gratification and have encouraged a consumer mentality where shoppers are constantly throwing out the old to make room for the new. This throwaway culture further contributes to the negative environmental impact of fast fashion, as garments end up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Other Dangers

As previously mentioned, most fast fashion giants have their factories in developing countries to lower production costs. This has taken a toll on domestic markets in many countries where labor laws are much stronger, as shoppers look elsewhere for their clothing. Relatedly, there have been reports of intellectual property theft, as many designers claim their designs have been illegally replicated and distributed by fast fashion companies.

The Answer

The concept of slow fashion is a response to fast fashion’s increasing popularity and refers to a practice that focuses on quality over quantity. Slow fashion prioritizes reusable materials, recyclable packaging, and environmentally friendly waste and chemical disposal practices. A great way to make sure you are part of the solution instead of the problem of fast fashion is by supporting brands that prioritize such sustainable practices. Shopping second-hand or vintage is another sustainable way to combat the dangers of fast fashion. So is recycling or passing down old clothing or choosing to repair pieces rather than throwing them away. The concept of circular fashion refers to a model where fashion companies adopt practices that promote waste reduction and the efficient use of resources. Garment rentals, clothing repair services, and recycling programs for old pieces are examples of circular fashion initiatives. Unfortunately, as long as consumers seek trendy pieces with a low price tag, the fast fashion industry will continue to thrive. By investigating brands to learn about their practices concerning environmental sustainability and labor practices, we can all do our part in making conscious choices.

Conclusion

While fast fashion provides consumers with instant gratification and makes clothing more affordable, the main beneficiaries of the fast fashion industry are the company owners, investors, and other stakeholders that profit from the trend. Fast fashion is negatively impacting the fashion industry through its exploitation of both workers and the resources used to make garments. Moreover, it encourages excessive consumption and has created a consumer mentality of disposable fashion. Addressing the many issues relating to fast fashion will require collaboration among all stakeholders involved in the process, from retailers, consumers, and policymakers to the brands themselves.