Within the last few decades, fashion trends have come and gone faster and faster. Now entering present-day 2021, clothes are cheaper than ever, and shopping occurs an average of once a week. Fast fashion chains dominate online shopping stores, high streets, and magazines. Suddenly, everyone could afford to dress like the latest celebrities or wear designer clothing, but it was all too good to be true.
On April 24, 2013, the world experienced something of a news flash. When the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, 1,134 workers were killed, leaving thousands injured. A day before the event, large cracks were discovered within the building’s structure. While shops on the lower floors closed, the factory owners ignored the warnings. Because of this decision, garment workers were forced to return the next day, and surely enough, a few hours passed before the building collapsed. Thousands of people were injured or killed, with most of the survivors trapped under the destruction for hours, or even days, before being rescued. In some cases, this was only doable by amputating limbs.
Every element of fast fashion is inherently “fast.” Fast fashion companies depend on consumers to continuously buy new clothes. They lure customers with low prices, clearance sales, and keep them shopping with new styles. Fast use is also part of the growing problems of fast fashion. Studies show that one item of clothing is worn only an average of 14 times before being thrown away.
The rise of fast fashion trends is directly related to social media and influencer culture, which rapidly changes. Quickly changing trends mean producers are under more pressure to deliver. Employees are expected to work faster, in dangerous environments, only to receive low wages and unfair human rights.
Not only is fast fashion accountable for inhumanity, but it comes with a hefty environmental price too. Factories require an estimated 93 billion cubic meters of water, contributing to about 20% of global water pollution. Fast-fashion production also creates an unreasonable amount of waste. Per person, the amount of clothing produced averages 13kg. After being worn just a few times, most textiles are thrown away. Alone, the industry delivers about 92 million tons of clothing waste yearly – and some of this waste doesn’t even reach customers; when clothing lines become outdated, they’re destroyed instead of being sold.
The good thing is that we – as customers – are the ones with the real power. We have the choice to buy less, upcycle old clothing, or buy things secondhand. We can look after our clothes so that they last longer; and this can mean mending them wherever possible, or even recycling them after they get too small. However you decide to do it, we have a choice to be ethical consumers.