The Consequences of Fast Fashion
by Andreea Boanta, Daria Rymarska and Zahra Khan
Fast Fashion. While many understand this term, the production itself and the results from fast fashion are not known to many. Fast Fashion is essentially the mass production of fashionable and trendy clothes but producing these clothes as well as the effects of creating this fashion are dangerous. Across the world there are workers employed to create these clothes in dangerous conditions and the clothes created are barely used which can lead to concerns in society as well as affecting and harming the environment.
According to statistical analysis provided by World Bank, the fashion industry has been accountable for 17-20% of the world’s water pollution resulting, being the second largest industry to make severe impacts on our environment (after agriculture). Converesely US Again, have justified in their report that an estimate of 68 pounds of clothing have been discarded whereas in the UK, more than one billion of textiles are being sent to landfills each year (Gupta et al., 2019).
‘Fast Fashion’ and crucially ‘Sustainability’, have been identified within this context as an example of ‘Oxymoron’. Considering this fact, it has been mainly argued that sustainability within a fashion industry, cannot be achieved by the audience through minimizing an apparel consumption. On the other hand, fashion should be observed as an element of ‘attractiveness’ as that’s how consumers will be able to reconnect with their designs and reflect their personalities.
Similarly, it has been furtherly emphasized that Fashion and Environment, directly shifts its pivotal point towards the ideas around ‘Fast Fashion and Society/Ethics’. Through psychological fields of study, it has been examined that style and fashion orientation, supposed to influence different buying behaviours within its consumers. For example, a strong fashion orientation will encourage its consumers to identify themselves with new experiences but no matter how much they will consume, their own needs will never be satisfied. Nevertheless, in regars to style oriented consumers, they are more likely to purchase less as they are trying to glance at clothes that will reflect their personal style as therefore, they are less interested in following the latest fashion trends. We expect those type of consumers to reflect their own fashionable desires that are not stereotypically represented in the media, buy full-fill their own individualised desires. For example, it has been foregournded that “average person buys 60% more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long compared to 15 years ago” (Ertekin & Atik, 2020).
Most of the prior academic studies on sustainable approaches to fashion are micro-oriented, are primarily focusing on their consumers. Accroding to Pears (2006), he suggested that waste fashion consumption will influence and raise awareness to encourage individuals towards sustainable consumption practices. Contrarily, Eileen Fisher made a configurative statement of “We have been proud to work with the Topshop team on Reclaim to Wear collections, inspiring them to include upcycling as part of their practice. This is really an important step. We are beginning to see that design can influence not just our style, but also the way we think about clothes” (Ertekin & Atik, 2020).
In the context of fast fashion, it is equally important to talk about the consumers and the manufacturers. Unmistakably, the second culprit is the major source of the problem and needs to take more responsibility for the environmental damage they are causing. But at the same time customers play a significant role themselves.
Further on, we aim to look into the society at large, shopping behaviours, and the perpetual issues of ethics in fashion culture.
The fashion industry is continuously shifting away from purchasing quality clothing; and to mass production, cheap imitations, staying in trend for a matter of weeks, and which inevitably end up as landfill. Despite this process being exposed and criticized vehemently, it will take some time to trickle down through the numerous layers of society (My Wardrobe Online, n.d.). While there are conscious consumers with a deep-seated concern for environmental issues, we still live in a world where people are more self-centred than before. In the pursuit of having the most unique and trendy appearance, consumers are “locked into” a vicious repetitive process of managing their identity through continually renegotiated fashion movements or cultural/entertainment trends (Jackson qtd. in Rhee, 2016, p. 1).
In a world where personal identity slowly fades away, and materialism labels everyone and everything, “individuals consume what signifies them, their lives, and desires as well as what differentiates themselves from others” (Jackson qtd. in Rhee, 2016, p. 1). To this extent, the Western individual perceives possessions as guarantee of personal identity and fulfilment, and consumption becomes the predominant behaviour of the 21st century.
A great case in point is the recent hyper-trend surrounding the Stranger Things show and merch, which “prompted a nostalgic turn to the teen fashion of the early 1980s” (Endeok, Fiore & Hyejeong, 2011, p.12.). Stores are flooded with gimmick apparel, i.e., hoodies, caps, socks, pyjamas etc. At the time of writing, over 10 fast fashion brands (H&M, Levi’s, Asos, etc.) “have introduced inexpensive merchandise that looks expensive” (Rosenthal, qtd. in Anguelov, 2015, p. 3). The Stranger Things collections are only an example of the continuous production of apparel constructed around trending tv shows.
However, despite the high wave it is riding at the moment – “Trends are temporal by nature – no fashion is everlasting” (Endeok, Fiore & Hyejeong, 2011, p. 6), and the questions no one asks, or answers still remains – What happens with all the merchandise and clothing items themselves after a cultural trend disappears? We can simply assume that “Today’s trend ends up in tomorrow’s landfill” (David Amram).
When regarding the importance of fast fashion, there are many dangers associated with it, the damage of the environment as discussed is and important part as well as consumers themselves in which it is society that creates the fast fashion. However the most central danger is the ethics itself concerning human rights.
When we discuss human rights surrounding fashion we don’t particularly often realise ethics crossed as the workers creating fashion are often not seen or heard. There many underdeveloped countries in which workers are taken advantage of for cheap labour, one example being in April 2013, a building that housed garment factories for several companies collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,127 people, making it the most devastating disaster in the apparel industry.
A year prior to the Rana Plaza incident, more than 700 people were injured in fires throughout garment factories in Bangladesh, with an average of one garment factory fire per week. In Bangladesh many garment factory workers receive less than $1 per day(McCluskey & Freeman & Black, 2019).
The very clothes that are mass produced everyday are made in sweatshops, with the workers are employed for long hours in unsafe conditions. There are even cases where children are employed to work (DiLonardo, 2020). One other recurring example of human rights being disregarded is physical labour involved. The workers themselves can be exposed to caustic chemicals and dyes in a dangerous working environment where safety is not the utmost importance.
These breaches of the workers occur even in the most unlikely countries as in 2018 an exposé by the Financial Times discovered workers at factories in Leicester were paid as little as £3.50 an hour, under half the minimum wage for people aged 25 and over (Crumbie, 2019). These exploitation of workers is the result of fast fashion and that its ethics still need to be improved.
In conclusion, the effects regarding fast fashion and the process involved creating clothes has a global effect. There are many ways fast fashion has damaged the world and it is only through a more shared understanding of the consequences involved can there be improvement. These photos record, extend knowledge and expand our understanding of the very nature of society itself. Overall, these photos have highlighted and conveyed the negative impact and hopefully allow for a more positive solution for our society in creating a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.
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