In the month of the earth, I would like to talk about and explain one of the textile industry's big problems: Fast fashion.
Fast fashion is a term used to describe a business model of replicating fashion trends seen on the catwalk.
This replication is done on a mass scale, at low cost, with poor quality, and with no regard for environmental or social impact.
The idea of this business is to have the newest styles on the market in the fastest way so that buyers can have the product when it is still trendy.
When did fast fashion start?
We have to go back to the industrial revolution to understand how fast fashion started. This period came with many ways and advances in the industry that made our lives much easier. One of the inventions of that time was the sewing machine, invented by the American Isaac Merritt Singer in 1851 and called the "sewing engine".
This invention made it easier not to have to produce each garment by hand, taking less time and effort to create each garment.
But it was not until the 1960s that the fashion industry changed. This era was a time of growth and evolution after WWII, and fashion became more accessible to everyone and became a way of personal expression.
Why fast fashion is bad for the planet?
The environmental impact of fast fashion on the planet is enormous. The fashion sector is the second biggest polluter after the oil sector. It is estimated that the gases emitted by the textile industry are greater than those emitted by all international flights and maritime shipping combined
When we talk about why the textile industry pollutes, we can consider several different aspects such as fabrics, the use of chemicals, or water.
We have clothes with many different fabrics, but in this case, we can divide them into two, the synthetic and the natural ones.
Synthetic garments have a more significant impact than those made from natural fibres. This fact is because synthetic fabrics are made with petroleum derivatives, and when the life cycle of this ends, the difficulty and cost to reuse or recycle them are very high. Therefore, the textile industry is not interested in investing in it. Then they end up in landfills, thus polluting the land or being incinerated and emitting more polluting gases into the atmosphere.
Natural garments made from fabrics such as cotton or linen also have their drawbacks: water consumption and pollution from pesticides are enormous.
Cotton plantations require enormous amounts of water, causing deficits and water shortages for citizens in the areas where cotton is grown. In many cases, because all the pesticides used for the plantations, water and soil are affected, causing the population's health to suffer.
To give you an idea of water consumption in the textile industry, it is estimated that 10,000 litres of water are required to produce a cotton jacket.
The fashion industry uses different chemicals, highly polluting, to treat clothes so that they have the colour or texture that the consumer is looking for at the end of production.
The waste from these chemicals is often dumped into rivers or lakes near the factories. These bad techniques are carried out in countries with a wick environmental regulation. Unfortunately, apart from making the planet suffer, the population near these sort of factories also suffers, endangering their lives.
Can we believe the eco campaigns of fast fashion brands?
Fast fashion eco-campaigns are called greenwashing. What does this term mean? Greenwashing is a marketing technique used by some companies to appear more ecological and environmentally friendly when in practice, their activities pollute the environment. It is, therefore, a technique that is considered abusive and misleading.
If we look closely, nowadays, we see many well-known brands with apparent signs of greenwashing, so I recommend that before believing in these eco-campaigns, you do more research on them.
To avoid being fooled and to identify a fast-fashion brand, you can take into account the following points:
When a collection is mass-produced and sold, it cannot be sustainable. So if we go into a store with a lot of product offer, it will be a warning of being a fast fashion brand.
When a brand only produces a small part of its final production under the word sustainable, that brand is fast fashion. And that capsule they are selling as sustainable in the production process will not consider many factors that make a garment sustainable.
When a brand pays its workers, a "minimum wage" means that this person cannot survive and meet the minimum living expenses. Make sure that the brands you buy pay their workers a "living wage" to afford secure housing and afford to buy food for themselves and their families.
Who are the top fast fashion brands?
Unfortunately, most of the stores we find on high street are fast fashion.
We can call fast fashion to well-known brands such as Zara, Mango, Boohoo, Pretty Little Things, TopShop, H&M, ASOS, SheIn, New Look, Next, Primark, and I could go on naming, but we would have a huge list of brands that do not do things as they should.
What can we do instead of buying fast fashion?
First of all, I encourage you to review your closet; there is nothing more sustainable than using the clothes you already have and stopping buying constantly.
I'm sure you have a lot of clothes in your closet, and you don't make the most of them as much as you could.
It is estimated that only 40 to 60 per cent of the clothes we have in our wardrobe are used.
I encourage you to be creative, make different combinations, and try new outfits to change this; it will be a way to avoid buying more clothes and fast fashion shopping.
If you need to buy clothes but want different alternatives, I suggest several options:
The first is to turn to the second-hand market. It can be the perfect opportunity to give a second life to clothes that are no longer useful for other people and save some money. We have many applications such as Vinted or Depop that people sell clothes in good condition; I advise you to open your eyes because you can find real treasures.
Another option for when you want to try new trends that you do not know if you will like and do not want to invest in fast fashion is renting.
Some companies rent clothes for days, even months, this way you can try different clothes without getting tired of them or spending a massive amount of money every month.
Finally, if you are looking to move away from fast fashion, feel authentic, comfortable and with a unique style and want your clothes to last for many years, I encourage you to invest in good quality garments that are well made. No matter the number of washes, these garments will last for years if you take care of them, and you will not have to worry about buying clothes every now and then.
If you find it challenging to identify where to buy good quality garments, or if you would like me to help you with some of your shopping by renewing some of your garments and guiding you on which ones are better to invest in, I would love to hear from you and work together.
Did you know all these things about fast fashion? Have I helped you understand the textile industry's problem and why we should reduce the consumption of this type of fashion?