By: Sally Baker
Every day in any given department store thousands upon thousands of dollars are made from open to close. Where is the rest of the money made? Online. This means retail transactions can occur 24/7.
Stores don’t stop selling to a shopper based on location, rather they market to anyone from around the world. Online shopping is constant and it only gets busier around the holiday season. Increased consumer demand calls for busier manufacturing lines and more labor.
Logistically, a piece of clothing quickly goes from the ideation of a designer to a fabricator that produces a prototype. The piece may be displayed for that designer at a show. A major corporation may love the look and buy it for their retailers, and that’s when the concept of fast fashion comes in.
When a business buys a “look,” or piece of clothing to market to their shoppers, the immediate reaction is to get the clothing into production as quickly and cheaply as possible. This allows the average person to buy this season’s latest and greatest clothes at affordable prices from the click of a button.
Fast fashion first started in the early 2000s when Vogue did a boho-chic shoot. Think teenage Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Kate Moss.
A huge issue within textile production is waste. According to journalist Elizabeth L. Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” Americans are purchasing five times the amount of clothing than they did in 1980. Fast fashion has impacted our lifestyle so much that every year the average American household produces 70 pounds of textile waste.
Throughout all stages of textile production, our ecosystems experience lasting environmental harm. The emissions of greenhouse gases, and the release of hazardous gases, various pesticides and dyes are consistently being released into the environment due to the fashion industry.
Another fault in the ethics of the fashion industry is the exploitation of workers. The fashion industry is known as the most labor dependent industry; 1 in 6 people work in acquiring raw materials and manufacturing clothing.
An example would be a jacket from H&M, a fast-fashion conglomerate. The jacket label is made in China, but labor could be outsourced elsewhere. H&M is the largest producer of clothing in under-developed countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia.
Underdeveloped countries are usually incapable of paying their workers with fair wages. According to Cline, in Bangladesh, there are over four million garment production workers in over 5,000 factories. Those workers are 85 percent women. They are forced to work in unsafe and poor working conditions while receiving a minimum wage of less than a dollar a day. This is because for companies like H&M to sell at low prices, a company can’t pay their workers a living wage.
Fast fashion companies have been exposed for unethical working environments with instances such as the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013. Over a thousand workers were killed due to owners not abiding by health and safety regulations.
The tragedy was the deadliest factory incident in history.
To combat the effects of the fast fashion industry, a slow fashion movement has formed in an effort to create more sustainable and ethical clothing production.
The sustainable or slow fashion movement is an ethical movement to fight the effects that fast fashion causes on people and the environment. Through pollution, whether it is through the actual production of clothes, the impossible decay of synthetic fabrics, the poor conditions and errors in workmanship, slow fashion promotes an ethical process from worker to the consumer.
On the forefront of slow fashion is Danielle Nagel, shop owner of Dazey LA, a sustainable fashion brand. They are an in-house fashion supplier. Making all their products in studio, with sustainable living wages, they are constantly promoting slow fashion habits to reduce textile waste. Nagel wanted to combine her love for fashion, art and photography by being transparent with her shoppers. Every shop item is priced in mind of not just the consumer but the worker as well.
Through her social media platforms, Nagel promotes the slow fashion philosophy about buying vintage clothes, redesigning old clothes, shopping from smaller producers, making clothes and accessories at home and buying garments that last longer.
Another influencer in slow fashion is Sophia Amoruso. Her story has been fictionalized and brought to life in the 2017 drama GIRLBOSS, where her life is portrayed as being a burnout shoe salesman who makes money off of reclaimed clothes she sells online to pay for her hernia. The show was cancelled after one season but its ideologies and ethics were not overlooked.
Recently, Instagram fashion enthusiasts have been making a profit from buying from nonprofit thrift organizations and repurposing them or selling them as vintage. It is so easy to find a buy/sell account where anyone can buy a one of a kind piece to their doorstep.
Fashion retail merchandising recent graduate, Laura Wehlage, stated how much she adores the new trend in thrifting and vintage online resell. She believes that “people are following their dreams in the fashion industry, employing people all while making a positive impact on the environment.”
So how do we fight it? How do we stop fast fashion? It’s simple. Buy locally, donate your unwanted clothing and promote slow fashion.