The cost of fast fashion, the future of clothing and the world we live in.
Being fashionable has never been easier. Low-cost clothing brands allow us to continually renew our closet at a lower price than a dinner with friends. Today we have 5 times more clothes in our closet than our grandparents had, 400% more clothes are produced than 20 years ago, trends change so fast that we can't keep up and we keep buying just to be fashionable.
This accumulation is made possible by a constant reduction in production costs. This, in turn, has serious consequences for our health, our planet and the conditions of garment workers.
This is fast fashion; the mass production of cheap, disposable clothing. The countless new collections that come out every year constantly make us feel out of place and encourage us to keep buying more.
Environmental impact of fashion
According to a report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Every year, half a million tons of microfiber are thrown into the sea, which is equivalent to three million barrels of oil. The fashion industry is also a huge consumer of water, an enormous amount of fresh water is used for the dyeing and finishing process of all our clothes, up to 200 tons of fresh water can be needed per ton of dyed fabric.
The garment industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, generating a large amount of greenhouse gases due to the energy used during production, manufacturing and transportation of the millions of garments purchased each year.
The synthetic fibers used in most of our garments are made from fossil fuels, so their production requires much more energy than natural fibers.
We wear a garment an average of 7 times before it is discarded, thus generating 35 kg of textile waste per person, only 15% is recycled or donated, and the rest goes directly to landfill or is incinerated.
In recent years and increasingly so, working conditions in garment factories around the world have provoked widespread outrage. Most of our clothing is manufactured in countries where workers' rights are limited or non-existent.
Workers are often forced to work 14-16 hours a day to meet the fashion brands' deadline. Their basic wages are so minimal that they cannot afford to refuse overtime, and many would be fired if they refused to work overtime. In some cases, overtime is not even paid and workplace conditions are very unfavorable.
In addition, 160 million children worldwide are forced to work. Since the fashion industry requires low-skilled labor, child labor is particularly prevalent in this industry.
Ensuring a safe working environment and giving garment workers a voice should be a priority for the industry, but most are always looking for new locations where they can manufacture even at lower cost.
What can we do?
As consumers, we have a big role to play in combating the negative effects of fashion by changing the way we shop by being more responsible consumers with a more ethical outlook.
1. Buy ethical and sustainable clothing brands
2. Shop with a conscience - do we really need those new pants?
3. Give a second life to clothes we no longer wear.
3. Buy second-hand
But while sustainable fashion, second-hand clothing and other alternatives are becoming increasingly accessible, the burden should not be placed solely on consumers. Companies must take responsibility for their actions and governments must establish regulations that hold the industry accountable for the damage it is doing.