• Kelly Corcoran

Why 2022 is The Year to Ditch Fast Fashion

When the cost of making a new item is less than the cost of processing the return of

another, you know that the industry is broken. Over the last 15 years, the average consumer’s expenditure on clothing has increased by a huge 60%. Meanwhile, Earth.org has identified that 80 billion new pieces of clothing are purchased each year – a 400% increase in consumption over a twenty-year timeframe.


Simultaneously, in comparison to 1970, the average household in Britain now spends 1.1%

less of their annual income on clothing. In short, we are each buying exponentially more for

less. But how does this occur, and why is it so problematic?


The fast fashion industry’s association with cheap and forced labour is not a new topic; in

fact, it is a topic that has circulated in my household since I was a child. But whilst its

discussion lacks novelty, its longevity in the media and its seemingly diminishing importance

– or perhaps more accurately, its apparent acceptance as the mere dark side to the industry – strikes me as increasingly disturbing.


According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), approximately 260 million children

around the world are in employment, with 170 million of them being victims of child labour.

The fast fashion industry (along with others) benefits from this exploitation across all

aspects of its supply chain. From cotton picking to weaving, to garment manufacturing,

children globally are being enslaved in harsh working conditions with little to no pay and

stifled access to education. This makes this exploitation not only a contemporary issue but

one that strides far into the future. By hindering the academic development of millions of

children, this industry hinders the economic development of the poorer nations in which

these children predominantly work.


However, the exploitation conducted by the fast fashion industry extends beyond the labour

forces of its own brands. The environmental destruction caused by companies such as H&M,

Zara, Urban Outfitters, and Boohoo make the fast fashion crisis one that exceeds borders

and communities. And unsurprisingly, the first to suffer the consequences are again those in

the poorer, less economically developed countries of the global East and South.


In 2019, UNEP stated that 'the fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and

is responsible for 8-10 per cent of the global carbon emissions – more than all international

flights and maritime shipping combined.' Of this pollution, Earth.org identified that the

dyeing and finishing process contributes to 36%, yarn preparation 28%, and fibre production

15%.


The excessive depletion of the earth’s resources required for the production of fast

fashion garments however is not limited to extraction alone. Large factories belonging to

the industry’s big brands emit vast amounts of pollutants into the waters of surrounding

regions – waters that local communities sometimes bathe and drink from.


Business Insider, for example, highlights that the dumping of the water leftover from the dying process into local rivers, ditches, and streams makes textile dying the world’s second-largest water polluter. What exasperates the horror of this eco destruction is that 85% of all textiles then end up in landfills each year.


Why? Because companies like H&M build clothes intended to withstand only a short life span and manipulate their consumers into believing that they are constantly out of trend. No longer are there 4 seasons to each year; by 2014, the fashion industry had managed to create and market ‘52 “micro seasons” per year.


However, whilst the West is not the most immediately affected by the cancer of the industry and its environmental destruction, it is only a matter of time until our consumer habits and

participation in this industry catch up with us. Generating ‘20% of the world’s wastewater

and releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibres into the ocean annually’ the

industry is a pollutant of our ethics, our ecosystem, and inevitably, our food. For example,

‘over the last decade, the rate of plastic consumption [by fish] has doubled, increasing by

2.4% every year.’


Meanwhile, a UN report published in 2017 identified there to be 500 times more microplastic particles in our oceans than there are stars in the milky way. Through every t-shirt, big brands promise you the potential to be fleetingly on-trend whilst simultaneously destroying your home and your potential to see the trends of future decades. By 2019, scientists had predicted that in line with current trajectories, the Earth and its civilisations will be destroyed by 2050.


So, what can you do to help? An important start would be to ditch fast fashion. Refrain from

buying from corporations like H&M and ASOS and avoid their clever yet misleading

marketing and greenwashing stunts. Take H&M and their Conscious Collection. In 2019,

H&M announced plans to start using fruit peel as a way to create more (supposedly)

sustainable clothing. However, what they did not announce was that it takes around 480

pineapple leaves to produce a single square metre of Pinatex. This is a classic example of

greenwashing, and the conscious, sustainable lines of all fast fashion brands are riddled with

misleading or unsubstantiated claims like this one.


Secondly, hold brands accountable. Use social media to highlight your acknowledgement of

their performativity and surface-level sustainability. The fast fashion industry is quite

literally counting on cretinous consumers to keep themselves afloat, a marketing scheme

that only adds insult to injury. ASOS, for example, introduced a pair of men’s jeans into their

line as a ‘recycled product’ that, in truth, was merely leftover stock from an old season.

Their prayers for superficial consumers can only last so long, and their attempts to

masquerade their injustice with further lies is a testament to the ethics at the very core of

these companies.


Ultimately, whatever your clothes are made from and however they are made, a brand

cannot be sustainable without fair living wages and working conditions. Perhaps instead of

buying clothes made from fruit we should buy less, buy better, and buy second-hand.


Feature image courtesy of the blowup via Unsplash.

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