Fast fashion and sustainability
Do you ever feel as if you have nothing to wear? Each year, 100 billion pieces of clothing are produced but those items never even reach the consumer. So, where do all those unused clothes go? Well, look no further: They are probably buried somewhere deep in the 20 meter high mountain of clothes in Accra, Ghana or piled high in the Atacama desert in Chile. These unconventional landfills are called fast fashion graveyards, where clothes go to die.
Fast fashion is a term that’s used to describe mass produced, low cost clothing that is manufactured to keep up with popular design trends.
It originally started off as a well intentioned concept, but slowly derailed through present day overconsumption. Fashion has a long history, but let’s fast forward to the 2000’s. This new age industry was created to make high fashion styles attainable. Styles seen on the runway would be affordable, size inclusive, and easily accessible to the everyday person.
However, in order to keep prices low, businesses outsource their products, which means environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives, if there are any, are put on the back burner. When bad news headlines started bringing attention to all the harmful ongoings in the fashion industry, such as the safety of garment workers and the environmental impact of overproduction, people started taking notice .
In the past, designers would create only a few new looks for each season of the year. There would be a Fall/Winter collection and Spring/Summer collection that were thoughtfully created for the runway. Nowadays, fast fashion brands are expected to create new collections every week that include hundreds of new styles, if not more, to keep customers engaged and buying. It also doesn’t help that social media marketing and targeted ads are constantly trying to convince us that we need a new outfit every week. Fortunately, things are changing and we’re beginning to see movement toward a more sustainable fashion industry.
One of the positive outcomes is the end of seasonality, which is leading to what is becoming known as “slow fashion”.
More consumers are starting to create capsule wardrobes, which are basic, high quality pieces of clothing that can be worn in every season for every occasion. Brands are also starting to take responsibility and accountability for their products and production. Businesses are starting to find where they fit into a circular economy by using natural, high quality materials that last and integrate fair labor rights in the process.