Fast Fashion: The World is Wearing Thin
FAST FASHION – THE WORLD IS WEARING THIN
The fact that I view the above image as strikingly beautiful as opposed to deeply disturbing probably tells more of the disconnect between those who wear fast fashion and those who weave it than I ever could in writing. While we look to Vogue or i-D to discern which colours to wear this winter, inhabitants of the slums of countries like Indonesia and India need only look to their water supply as the dye from textile factories tint the flowing waters and stain the riverbanks. The fast fashion industry is one of the biggest leeches on our planet today and the effect it has on people and places half the world away from its beneficiaries need to be acknowledged before the tide is completely irreversible.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, ‘fast fashion’ is the phrase coined to describe the weekly renewal of designs by flagship budget fashion retailers such as Primark, H&M, Zara et al. With a different collection for every week of the year as opposed to the traditional spring/summer and fall/winter range, fast is the perfect word to describe the relentless way in which production and consumption of low quality wear-once garments now dominates the Western fashion industry. While we might look more vibrant than ever, the effects of such global consumption and waste are far too much to detail in a few short words. Aside from multi-coloured and fishless rivers, workers (often children) in sweatshops are as expendable as the £10 dresses they make, tied into bonds by their families or debts that make our complaints of unfair labour seem borderline pathetic: appalling working conditions lead to mass fainting, death at work or because of work is commonplace. I’ve heard about suffering for fashion but there has to be a line in the sand.
It would be bad enough if this impossible labour went into creating valued goods, but it is in the very nature of fast fashion to discard garments as quickly as they are created. The hard work of millions of people stagnates in landfill sites for countless years as new designs contribute to the never ending cycle of depravity, consumption and decay. If we are to become more aware of our planet and the drastic way in which our practises are destroying it then we should pay just as much attention to the textile industry as we are to transport, power and animal agriculture. Under the fast regime a sustainable market is impossible and ruin is inevitable.
Like so many of the problems we face in 21st century living, the solution will not be realised in a watershed moment but with individual drops of change. As such, you as a consumer can help reverse the tide against fast fashion. Small changes in your consumption habits and the drive to compel others to follow your lead really can make a difference.
Without the support of millions of consumers the fast fashion industry will be forced to trickle to a halt. Of course the choice ethical consumption is a privilege but if it is a privilege you can afford then it is a privilege you should take. Avoid retailers known to exploit workers and the planet and make use of charity or second-hand shops. Apps are available (see: http://www.goodguide.com) to check ethics on a product-by-product basis as easily as scanning the barcode, and it doesn’t take much research to work out what or where to avoid when shopping.
Avoid throwing away clothes unless absolutely necessary and make use of textile recycling, the local Oxfam and good old fashion handing down of clothes to friends or family. Learn to carry out minor repairs on clothes before chucking them out and give repurposing a try- there’s a ton of inspiration on the Internet to get you thinking. And lastly…
Care About Your Clothes
Look after your clothes and treat them like the high value items they are. Think about how much effort has gone in to making your jacket before you drop it on the floor of a basement venue and find it later in the night in a much worse state than any of your friends. Buy clothes to last and consider how much you really want that ridiculous Christmas jumper. You are much smarter than advertisers give you credit for. Strive to pay a little more for lasting quality and fulfil the quality over quantity cliché. You never know what’s going to be in style next season and who is to say it isn’t going to be that body warmer you bought last winter.
Text by Lewis Renfrew.
- River pollution due to textile factories, Indonesia. http://ounodesign.com/2013/11/11/greenpeace-toxic-textiles-detox-how-people-power-is-cleaning-up-fashion/
- Textile Factory, India