How we choose to dress ourselves has impact that goes far beyond personal functionality and image.
The modern day fashion climate has shifted heavily towards inexpensive, short-lived products and styles, that enable increased production, consumption, and disposal of clothing. The increased rate at which fashion collections turnover, and at which indiviudals are buying and getting rid of clothing has resulted in profound, unseen impacts on the environment, the economy, and especially on human health and well-being. This article discusses the true impacts of the modern day textile industry and provides steps that we can take towards a wardrobe that is healthier for us, our planet, and all those impacted.
“We have been brainwashed in the last fifteen, twenty years, to think that it’s democratic to buy a t-shirt for five dollars.”
Fast Fashion: A system in which inexpensive clothing is produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to latest trends. A fast fashion system, requiring minimal expense and production time, allows firms to react quickly to changing consumer demand by replenishing inventory and introducing more fashion styles.
Slow Clothes Movement: Buying, wearing, and passing on clothing in ways that allow for more time between the production and disposal of an item.
Impacts of Fast Fashion
Total greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the textiles industry is 1.2 billion tonnes annually (more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined).2
Hazardous substance released during textile production affect the environment. 2
Fast fashion tends towards synthetic materials, which can be produced more rapidly and release plastic microfibers resulting in half a million tonnes of ocean pollution every year.2
Many textile workers are subject to unsafe working environments and the hazardous substance used and released during production unfair wages. High production demands can lead to workers suffering poor working conditions with long hours and low wages.2,5
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”
– Lucy Siegle
More than USD 500 billion dollars are lost each year from clothing underutilization and lack of recycling. 2
Effects on You
It costs more
The high turnover of fast fashion results, individually, in more money being spent on lower quality items that have minimal longevity. (see below)
It can negatively impact health and well-being
Having too many clothing options can increase anxiety, resulting from the paradox of choice (having too many options to choose from).3
Clutter, resulting from too many clothes can also cause an increase in anxiety.4
The human health risks of a significant number of chemicals used to turn raw materials into textiles are unknown. 2
It takes more time
Shorter life spans of items means that individuals have to spend much more time shopping, managing, and disposing of their clothes.
“Clothes are so cheap today that buying them often feel inconsequential.”
– Elizabeth Cline
FAST-FASHION BREAKDOWN: The cost of a shirt over three years
|Fast Fashion||Slow Clothes:
|Clothing Item||Shirt purchased from retail outlet known for its less-expensive options||Shirt purchased from a boutique or retail outlet||Shirt purchased from a consignment store|
|Material||Polyester||Cotton-wool blend||Cotton-wool blend|
|Longevity||6 months (requires multiple replacements)||3+ years||3 years|
HOW TO PUT THE BRAKES ON FAST FASHION
You can take an active role in stepping back from fast fashion, by extending the lifespan of clothing items and using the following steps when you obtain, use, and discard of your garments.
|Bringing Clothes In||
Be critical about if and how you obtain new clothes.
|Wearing Clothes Well||
Extend the longevity of your garments by taking proper care of them.
Learn more about how to take care of your clothing here.
|Passing Clothes On||
Be mindful about how you decide to pass on your clothes.