What's the price of fast fashion?
When you live in a world where your economy pretty much relies on consumerism, it’s hard to not give into temptation. Media has painted a picture where materialistic items are a necessity. When in fact, human beings rely only on water, food, and shelter to survive. However, nowadays people can't seem to be able to live a day without buying that five dollar t-shirt that was too cheap to pass. Fast fashion is misusing social media, which leads to mass production of fashion; generating pollution globally. Nevertheless there are practical changes and alternative processes in the lifecycle of clothing that companies could integrate into their production, which will result in better usage of our resources.
Today, social media is used as a tool to connect brands and customers; it encourages interaction. However, fast fashion crosses the line by bombarding us with messages every second. When fast fashion companies perceive consumer demand, they will massively produce regardless of the pollution they create. Social media's job is to initiate demand by portraying an image of an affordable moment of happiness, and “style for a couple of bucks”; which tends to lead to the idea of “easily disposable”.
Currently the apparel industry is the second largest industrial polluter in the world. You might ask yourself ‘what's the price of fast fashion?’, According to James Conca “fast fashion garments, which we wear less than 5 times and keep for 35 days, produce over 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than garments worn 50 times and kept for a full year”. In other words, it is a very high price to pay. It’s a price future generations will have to pay if we do not act. However, we can start implementing new ideas to reduce the harm and save more resources for future generations to come.
Fast fashion companies need to start implementing changes in every stage of the lifecycle of any garment and it all starts in the fibre/ textile production. Companies can start using durable natural fibres that can be recycled. Afterwards, we have the dyeing and finishing phases of textiles, which aggressively releases toxic waste into the water. Some dyes can cause unhealthy changes in the aquatic animals’ ecosystem. Alternatives here involve naturally coloured cotton and waterless dyeing techniques. Also, all apparel brands should discontinuing any toxic fabric finishes that are dangerous for workers due to the risk of potential diseases. Human beings are earth’s most special resources, and they have to be respected.
Next, the design and production stages follow. Here fast fashion brands can start designing clothing with better quality and durability. The goal should no longer be “cheap and fast” it should be “timeless and durable”. This will be achieved by using better quality fabrics and longer lasting designs. Here, we can also try to eliminate textile wastage when the garment is cut into the patterns. Moving on, production should always be ethical; this can be done by improving working conditions, fair labour standards, and living wage policies in Asian governments. Clothing might become less affordable, but the result is corporate and social responsibility.
In a perfect sustainable world, clothing supply chains slow down because of the lower levels of consumption. Green transportation is used globally to transport merchandise and eco-friendly/recycled materials are used when packaging garments. When clothes hit the sale floors, sustainability should be the first factor in buying decisions of consumers. How can we make that possible?
Popular brands will portray and market sustainability as the newest trend, which will lead consumers away from cheap, disposable mass production. Fashion brands will be so proud of their sustainability achievements that they will provide tags on clothing educating the consumers about a more green future. They will educate us in the use, care, and disposal/recycling process. Not just enabling people to make a change, but actually becoming that change.
Social media becomes part of the change by utilizing it to educate instead of just producing mass-consumerism. Social media will teach society; informing us on how much clothes are really worth, where they come from, who made it, and how much it pollutes. Consumers should know the true meaning of responsible purchasing. Knowledge is power, and by enabling society we can change the world.
We can make a change. There are so many possibilities and actions we can take, starting with the fast-fashion brands. Practical changes and alternative processes in the lifecycle of clothing will result in better usage of our resources. Also, we can all become more responsible consumers by demanding a change, and better education. Social media must stop promoting mass consumerism and start teaching about the real price of clothes.