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Fast Fashion – the Fast Killer?

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Covid-19 has drawn much of the world to a halt, yet fast fashion still prevails. With many of us working from home, fashion retailers have been at the ready with “WFA” (work from home) loungewear collections to sustain demand for fast fashion. Ani Talwar lays out the facts in this article on why we must remember how dangerous this industry can be for everyone involved, not to mention our planet.

Around the globe, 80 billion pieces of new clothing are brought yearly. This is $1.2 trillion spent on the fashion industry. The US uses more clothing and textiles than any other country, 85% of which are sent to landfill. Fast fashion in recent years has become a sort of buzzword, so here are a few definitions I’ve found:

An approach to design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasises making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”. – Merriam Webster

Cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed.” – Good on You

Whilst the textile chain gives 40 million people jobs, 90% of the world’s clothing is produced in low or middle-income countries whose management and infrastructure does not provide adequate safety regulations for its workers, leading to lung disease and even adverse reproduction.

I think it’s safe to call fast fashion a global trend, but is it a fast way to destroy our planet, or do the evolving catwalks provide benefit for more people?

On a purely environmental scale, fast fashion is a fast killer. Being water-intensive, the average water usage to produce one kilo of cotton stood at 10,000 to 20,000 litres in 2017, and cotton production takes place in countries that are already water-stressed as it is. The 2015 Fashion Report stated that fast fashion contributed 1,715 million tonnes of carbon emissions that year according to the Guardian.

However, is it work it for the £32 billion the fast fashion industry puts into the UK economy alone?

But when the pros of the industry are easy to access ‘throwaway’ clothing, is it worth the cons of the 700,000 microplastic fibres released per wash from polyester clothing. With the plastic in the ocean being a major issue currently, can fast fashion help prevent it by…slowing down?

Slowing it down might seem to undermine the entire phrase ‘Fast fashion’, but it can be done, and sustainably too! Forbes wrote an article on ‘Can fast fashion be sustainable?’ and brought my attention to these two brands.

Dutch company Dyecoo, for example, has said it’s the first company to provide textiles water and process chemical-free. Their dyeing process is CO2 based, making it more efficient and profitable.

Re: Newcell the Swedish company takes worn clothes and turns them to slurry, so the resulting cellulose formed is biodegradable and helpful to plants.

So, there you see, fast fashion…yes it can be a fast killer, but small changes can turn a global trend into a global protector after all. With supply chains currently disrupted due to Covid-19 social distancing rules, next day delivery and quick order turn arounds are no longer possible with many brands adding an extra 2-7 days on dispatching orders.

No one can begin to estimate when social distancing will become a thing of the past, so have we already been pushed into slower fashion practices?

About the Author: Ani Talwar can be found at @mischief.weavers, she wrote the book ‘ATRO- CITY THE FLOOD’ and is passionate about sustainability.

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