Andreea Boanta

With all my heart or not at all.

Photo Essay

Mediating Crises

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). 

The imagery within this photograph is supposed to represent to its audience the idea how consumers of fashion and nature, become one single element. The boundary between us and the sources of nature start to fade and we start to respect greater sources of ‘power’ and natural landscapes around us. Photo Credits: From I-d.vice, by M. Seward, 2020, (https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/v749db/burberry-reburberry-edit-ss20-sustainability). (Daria Rymarska).
In this photograph, I’ve blended two images together. One image I used is a natural landfill where fashion consumers turned the place into garbage through placing the clothes they don’t want to wear anymore. Second image, is a photograph of a woman that’s wearing a white cloth, all over her face. My representation idea of this image was supposed to be how each of us, are blinded to see the reality behind the damage we are causing towards the environment and we are too ‘blinded’ to face the reality. In a sense, we don’t want to see that reality due to the fact that we are more psychologically and socially connected with fashion to fill our own desires and we don’t see the consequences behind our daily actions. Photo Credits: From Pexels, by M. Buonarroti, 2016, (https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-woman-covered-with-plastic-bag-4177012/). (Daria Rymarska).
This photograph (similarly to No2), demonstrates a picture of a woman that’s covered with a white cloth, all over her face. However in regard to this image, I’ve used the most common ‘fashion and sustainability’ vocabulary (that’s commonly used by fashion consumers + environmentalist) to imply the story of woman who are more focused on how expensive there clothes cost, rather than demonstrating any concerns over how our environment is currently under critical climate consequences as they are not able to save their clothes for couple of years. Instead, they are making more purchases online to fit into our imaginary society and imply they are able to be as fashionable as their own friends or celebrities. Photo Credits: From Pexels, by Cottonbro, n.d., (https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-behind-a-plastic-bag-3738198/). (Daria Rymarska).
I managed to photograph this image with my own phone where I used my own pair of jeans and a damaged plant in the middle to emphasise how our frequent online shopping for fashion and then not being able to re -use our clothes to make something new (or give our clothes to local charities), are going to impact on our environment in the next years of our lives, if we don’t plan to act upon new changes to our habits. Photo Credits: Daria Rymarska.
This image implies how current fashion designers are trying to combine nature and fashion, into one element. First of all, the dress is made of flowers and secondly, we can imply that we shouldn’t close our eyes and pretend that nature doesn’t act as a vigorous source of power. Even if we try to separate ourselves from the environment and try to cause collision towards natural landscapes, nature will always find a way to appear again within our lives. It’s healthier for fashion consumers to become one element with nature and showcase the true beauty that it holds. Photo Credits: From Sustainabilityreader, by M. Introini, 2019.(https://thesustainabilityreader.com/2018/12/06/sustainable-fashion-do-not-make-a-fashion-of-sustainability/amp/). (Daria Rymarska).
Fashionable modern woman with shopping bags on landfill, consumerism versus pollution concept. Photo Credits: From Envato Elements, by Halfpoint, 2021, (https://elements.envato.com). (Andreea Boanta).

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. 

This photo offers a typical view of the 21st century shopping malls, where people rush between fast fashion brands in order to get the latest clothing. Photo Credits: From Pexels, by Burst, 2020, (https://www.pexels.com/photo/crown-group-modern-motion-374894/). (Andreea Boanta).

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).

A huge pile of clothes having on the top a T-shirt with the text ” I have nothing to wear” which is often associated with the female customer behaviour. Photo Credits: From Shape, by L. Mazzo, 2016, (https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/try-7-day-decluttering-detox-spring-clean-your-stuff?slide=414ece0a-f0bd-4e0d-86ec-e587255df099#414ece0a-f0bd-4e0d-86ec-e587255df099). (Andreea Boanta).

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. 

Collage containing the Levi’s and H&M Strangers Things Collections, as well as models promoting the 80’s inspired clothing. Sources used: Levis.com and H&M.com – edited by Andreea Boanta.

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.

Three fashion models in the landfill rising awareness of the current environmental issues and our disposable consumer culture. – Photo Credits: From Twitter, by S. McCarteny, 2017, (https://twitter.com/StellaMcCartney/status/925039663680753664/photo/). (Andreea Boanta).

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.

An empty clothes shop. Photo Credits: From Pixabay., n.d., (https://pixabay.com). (Zahra Khan). 

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 woman surrounded by workers in a colourful factory. Photo Credits: From Istock.com, n.d., (https://www.istockphoto.com). (Zahra Khan).

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).

Indian women working tirelessly in a factory. Photo Credits: From AlJazeera by M., Hossain Opu ,2014, (https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2014/4/27/in-pictures-recounting-horror-of-rana-plaza). (Zahra Khan).

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.

The destruction of the Rana Plaza which held many garment factory workers. Photo Credits: From AlJazeera by M., Hossain Opu, 2014, (https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2014/4/27/in-pictures-recounting-horror-of-rana-plaza). (Zahra Khan).

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.

Two young girls of different cultures: one wearing the dress she created and another girl who brought the dress. Photo Credits: From Ecowarriorprincess and TVN24 by R.,Stinson, 2016, (https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2016/09/ethical-fashion-101-the-top-5-ethical-issues-in-the-fashion-industry/). (Zahra Khan).

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.

References:

AlJazeera.(2014). Bangladesh Women Workforce. https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2014/4/27/in-pictures-recounting-horror-of-rana-plaza

AlJazeera.(2014). Rana Plaza Collapse. https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2014/4/27/in-pictures-recounting-horror-of-rana-plaza

Anguelov, N. (2015). The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry Fast Fashion and Its Negative Impact on Environment and Society. CRC Presshttps://doi.org/10.1201/b18902

Buonarroti, M. (n.d.). Unrecognizable woman covered with plastic bag. https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-woman-covered-with-plastic-bag-4177012/

Burst. (n.d.). Shopping Mall. https://www.pexels.com/photo/crown-group-modern-motion-374894/

Cottonbro. (n.d.). Pictures are worth Million Words. https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-behind-a-plastic-bag-3738198/

Crumbie, A. (2019). What is fast fashion and why is it a problem?. Ethical Consumer. https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem

DiLonardo, M. J. (2020). What is Fast Fashion- and Why is it a Problem?. Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/fast-fashion-environmental-ethical-issues-4869800

Ecowarriorprincess. (2016). Low Wages. https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2016/09/ethical-fashion-101-the-top-5-ethical-issues-in-the-fashion-industry/

Ertekin, Z., & Atik, D. (2020). Institutional Constituents of Change for a Sustainable Fashion System. Journal Of Macromarketing40(3), 362-379. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146720932274

Eundeok, K., Fiore A., Hyejeong, K. (2011). Fashion Trends Analysis and Forecasting. Bloomsbury.

Gupta, S., Gwozdz, W., & Gentry, J. (2019). The Role of Style Versus Fashion Orientation on Sustainable Apparel Consumption. Journal Of Macromarketing39(2), 188-207. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146719835283

Halfpoint. (n.d.). Fashionable Woman. https://elements.envato.com

H&M. (2019). Stranger Things x H&M: Meet Dacre Montgomery. https://www2.hm.com/en_gb/life/culture/inside-h-m/hm-x-stranger-things.html

Introini, M. (2019). Sustainable Fashion: do not make a fashion of sustainability. https://thesustainabilityreader.com/2018/12/06/sustainable-fashion-do-not-make-a-fashion-of-sustainability/amp/

iStock. (2020). Woman in factoryhttps://www.istockphoto.com

Levi’s. (n.d.). Levis x Stranger Things Collection. https://www.levi.com/US/en_US/blog/article/levis-x-stranger-things-collection/

Mazzo, L. (2016). I have Nothing to wear. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/try-7-day-decluttering-detox-spring-clean-your-stuff?slide=414ece0a-f0bd-4e0d-86ec-e587255df099#414ece0a-f0bd-4e0d-86ec-e587255df099

McCarteny, S [@StellaMcCartney]. (2017, Oct 30). Monday mood… Behind the scenes on our Winter campaign shoot! x Stella. [Tweet].Twitter. https://twitter.com/StellaMcCartney/status/925039663680753664/photo/

McCluskey, D., & Freeman, C., & Black, C. (2019). The Effect of Fashion Industry Media on Consumer Perceptions of Social Responsibility. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 111(2), 25-29. DOI: 10.14307/JFCS111.2.25 

My Wardrobe Online. (n.d.). Fast Fashion & its Impact on Society. https://mywardrobeonline.org/fast-fashion-its-impact-on-society/

Pixabay. (2016). Shopping Mall- Shop Windows- Fashionable Clothes. https://pixabay.com/photos/shopping-mall-shop-windows-1316787/

Rhee, J. (2016). International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) Annual Conference Proceedings. Exploring the Impact of a Documentary Film on Young Consumers’ Understanding of Sustainable Apparel Consumption and Behavioral Changes, 115, 1-2. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/itaa_proceedings/2016/posters/115

Seward, M. (2020). Burberry is releasing an SS20 edit in recycled fabrics. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/v749db/burberry-reburberry-edit-ss20-sustainability.

STYLE, I. (2016). THIS IS THE TRUE COST OF FAST FASHION. https://www.idealiststyle.com/blog/this-is-the-true-cost-of-fast-fashion-introduction-to-the-new-sustainably-fashionable-series#

Woman behind plastic bag. (n.d.). https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-behind-a-plastic-bag-3738198/.

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