Fast Fashion: The Silent Killer
By Claire T.
Fashion is no longer made to last, and it is destroying the planet. Fast Fashion defined by Dictionary.com is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. The term was coined by the New York Times in the 1990’s while describing Zara’s mission to get a garment from the design stage to stores in 15 days. Brands like ASOS, Victoria’s Secret and Primark are just a few of the Fast Fashion giants that rule the textile industry. Fashion Nova is another example, and according to an article from the New York Times, pay their workers in Los Angeles illegally low wages and “mass produce cheap clothes that look expensive.” Social media has created a world where outfits cannot be repeated and Fashion nova is the perfect remedy for this. Influencers can advertise Fashion nova’s clothing and consumers will click on the post and purchase from the site. In an era where most people shop online, including 57.7 percent of seniors at Duxbury High School who took part in a survey, brands like this are steadily gaining popularity.
85 percent of textiles worn in the US end up in landfills according to an article from the New York Times. This article also states that more than 60 percent of fabric fibers used in clothing are now synthetic, meaning that they will not decay or break down in these landfills. These synthetic microfibers end up in the ocean as well as freshwater sources, and may be there forever. In a book titled “Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas, the dark history of the textile industry is highlighted. Textiles have always influenced capitalism, beginning with slave labor in Southern America that fueled factories in England and ending with underpaid immigrant factory workers in present Los Angeles, as well as countries like China and Vietnam. In the book, Thomas tells the story of a factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013, killing 1,100 people and injuring 2,500. Thomas states that “Between 2006 and 2012, more than 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in factory fires.”
The growing mentality of “out with the old and in with the new” is becoming dangerous for the planet. According to an article from Business Insider, “the average consumer purchased 60% more items of clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long, whether because the garment fell apart, went out of style, or was simply viewed as disposable.” In an article from The United Nations, “a recent study by the Ellen McArthur Foundation found that one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. And the Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year.” This article also states that the Fast Fashion industry is the second biggest consumer of water and produces 20 percent of wastewater. Fast Fashion is also destroying the atmosphere, in an article from UNECE Fast Fashion is proven to produce “ten percent of global carbon emissions – more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.”
Growing environmental damage as well as the condition of employees of these companies should be an issue for concern. 76.7 percent of Duxbury High School seniors who participated in a survey buy from Fast Fashion brands. The last question of this survey was “If you don’t shop at thrift stores currently, would you be open to thrifting if you knew the impacts fast fashion is causing on the environment and the employees of these companies?” 67.4 percent said yes, but one person responded to the “other” box on the survey with a common misconception. They stated that “Thrift stores should be for people who cannot afford many things instead of wealthy teenagers who want to be trendy.” Thrift stores are the best way to counter the Fast Fashion movement because there are too many textiles on the planet. People who can only afford thrift stores will have a surplus of clothing to choose from, even if more people start to utilize this resource. There are also brands that make clothing sustainably from recycled materials and treat their workers well. The website for the movie “The True Cost” which is a documentary about Fast Fashion, has a page to help consumers shop better. Although these brands are more expensive, they have more money per wear value and will last much longer than any Fast Fashion brand.