Fast Fashion: slow down !
While you buy your provisions in bulk or decided to become vegan, you might go shopping to Zara or H&M once in a week ? You probably won’t see where the problem is about that. Why do we have so much trouble accepting that it’s a problem ?
Some people are literally addicted to shopping and many of us buy at least one item per week (of course, it’s not universal).
What is Fast Fashion ?
Fast fashion corresponds to inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. A mass market retailer is a seller of consumer goods that are priced to be affordable and accessible to large segments of the population. They are not necessarily known for selling durable or quality merchandise, neither for their respect of labour law.
Most of the time, fast fashion targets are those who can’t afford to spend their money on designer pieces.
You probably know all of them : H&M, ZARA, Mango, TopSHop, Stradivarius, Forever 21, Uniqlo, Primark… Two watchwords for this kind of brands: cheap and trendy.
Let’s make it short: on an average, 20 collections per year, lower prices, poor quality but always, more and more incomes for the brand. When I’m saying 20 collections per year, I’m not even exaggerating. Since they are manufacturers and retailers at the same time, they have a control the whole supply-chain process: design, production, transport, marketing etc. which allows it to be extremely short – two to four weeks only. To respect this deadline, they have to optimize every step while minimizing the costs.
That’s the problem about fast fashion: they probably don’t respect labour law or humans rights but the margin out of it is enormous.
Considering that fashion collections change every two weeks, it creates a kind of emergency in the head of consumer: you have to buy the items right now, otherwise you won’t be able to have them in two weeks anymore. That’s the whole point about fast fashion.
It’s cool to buy clothes, the real problem is that the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world. Each year, we consume 80 billion of new clothes – which represent 1,2 trillion dollars per year for fashion industry.
Where do clothes come from ?
Clothes whether come from the petrochemical industry (nylon, polyamide..) so from petrol, whether from plants as cotton. Both are very polluting. Petrol is petrol, industry are obviously polluting whenever it is used: oil spill, air pollution, destruction of the fauna and flora… what about cotton ? One number : 3000 liters of water require to manufacture one T-shirt in cotton. On top of that, cotton necessitates pesticides.
Greenwashing is the use of marketing to portray an organization’s products, activities, or policies as environmentally friendly when they’re not. Consumers are cheated about the real impact of products.
Some brands try to clear themselves of any responsibility by doing some « greenwashing ». For instance, H&M and its « recycling campaign ». H&M collects your old clothes to make some new ones or for donations. Most of people think that these donated clothes are given for free to the last fortunate. In this way, maybe people are feeling better about buying new clothes. This kind of thought has a name: the clothing deficit myth. It’s the idea that when we give clothes to charity they’re going to someone locally in need. But the fact is that there’s far more unwanted clothes than there are people in need.
The truth is that most brands sell donated clothes to developing countries. No, clothes aren’t donated or given to people in need, they’re sold. Actually, less than 1% of the world’s used clothes are turned into new ones.
If your tag says it was made in a developing country, it probably came from sweatshop. According to VeganPeace Web Site, sweatshop is defined by the US Department of Labour as :
« a factory that violates two or more labor laws, such as those pertaining to wages and benefits, child labor or working hours. In general, a sweatshop can be described as a workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage or benefits, poor working conditions, and arbitrary discipline, such as verbal and physical abuse. »
Most of the time, sweatshop are located in Asian countries as Indonesia or Vietnam, or in South America as in Honduras or El Salvador. Workers are paid less than 3$ an hour. Brands do not respect the fundamental standards established by International Labour Organization.
Check your items and search for « fair trade company » or sweat-free label.
Is it possible to slow down fast fashion? Unfortunately, the growth of ethical consumption has not fully integrated fashion. However fashion industry has probably sustainability issues – water consumption, carbon footprint etc. But the value of money is so big that it may be impossible for companies to stop to product this way. Consumers have an important role in this process. International law should require a better information for consumers about manufacturers practices so that he can choose freely and consciously.
So, buy less but buy better !