Not So Fast: Sustainability and the Impact of Fast Fashion
The environment has become a major topic of concern for most people; 65% of Americans would prefer to prioritize the environment even at the expense of economic growth. Concern for the environmental impact of everyday life has steadily risen, resulting in changes such as plastic straw bans and bring-your-own-bag initiatives across different cities. It was inevitable that the fashion industry, fast fashion in particular, would begin to feel this growing concern from consumers as well.
To describe fast fashion, we must look to the past. Once upon a time, fashion followed the seasons; fashion trends were produced seasonally rather than at the current rate of several times a month. Fast fashion is best exemplified by companies like Zara, who treat their products like expiring food, giving items a sell-by period of four weeks. Put simply, faster production times mean more resource usage, more waste, and more overall environmental damage.
The fabric your dress is made from may feel light, but the fashion industry's use of resources is anything but. Fashion contributes to soil degradation and deforestation through the need to grow materials like cotton for production. Cotton is one of the most commonly used materials and sucks up 20,000 liters of water just to produce 1kg of cotton. Besides other serious effects like microfibers washing into oceans from synthetic fabrics in our washing machines and landfills, it's no surprise clothing and shoe production accounts for a whopping 8% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions.
The economics of fast fashion is no less grim. Companies like Forever 21 offer low prices and fast production times based on cheap labor — the kind of cheap labor that led to the devastation of the Rana Plaza factory fire that killed over 1,100 workers. Yet, this business model is unsustainable in more than just environmental and ethical aspects — Forever 21 recently filed for bankruptcy, a major dent in the fast fashion-driven industry of today.
Sustainable fashion brands are taking the lead in the fashion industry as a response to growing support from shoppers searching for ethical options. However, defining sustainable fashion is a challenge — no one definition exists. Today, consumers must take the lead and do their research when avoiding fast fashion. Sustainable fashion shops like Love Dot make it easier for shoppers to still find beautiful, quality clothing while knowing their money is going towards ethical and sustainable fashion practices they can feel good about.