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When we talk about fast fashion, a common question arises: why is fast fashion bad, and what are the disadvantages of fast fashion?
The disadvantages of fast fashion include –
not paying fair living wages to workers, poor working conditions, child labor, environmental destruction from hazardous chemicals, plastic-derived materials, and increasing amounts of water pollution and textile waste.
The fashion industry is known to be destructive for the environment, and there are many problems. Keep reading to learn more about:
- What is fast fashion? (fast fashion definition)
- The disadvantages of fast fashion
- How to spot fast fashion brands?
- What can you do about it?
- Bonus: A letter to a fast fashion company
1. What is fast fashion? (fast fashion definition)
Fast fashion is – cheap, trendy clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.
The idea is the inexpensive, low-quality designs to move quickly from the catwalk to stores, to meet the newest trends.
As a result, fast fashion brands are introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis, and they tend to present new products each week to stay on-trend.
2. Disadvantages of fast fashion
In the beginning, we briefly mentioned some fast fashion disadvantages, but here we will take a more in-depth look.
Excessive amounts of brands and clothing:
Part of the problem is there are too many brands, with questionable supply chains, making a completely ridiculous amount of clothes.
Not showing information about their supply chain:
Fast fashion brands are not being transparent with their practices and they tend to hide certain information from their customers.
That’s a factory where people work hard labor, under very poor working conditions, inadequate hours, and severe health risks.
Many fast fashion brands have such factories in developing countries.
Not paying fair living wages:
As most of their factories are in developing countries, the living wage there isn’t the same as the western one. That’s why they can sell clothes at low prices.
Additionally, some fast fashion brands pay less than the local living wage, too, which is extremely disingenuous.
Research finds that while some brands have made commitments to pay living wages, these commitments have mostly not yet translated into meaningful action or results.
Almost none of these companies developed a living wage methodology and calculated a living wage for each region that it operates in. Very few of these companies pay a living wage, and most don’t have projects to improve.
Living wages are essential since if a family cannot afford to live a normal life, the last thing they will think about is saving the environment and making more environmental choices.
Most fast fashion brands are dropping tremendous amounts of new products every week, promoting over-consumption.
As a result tons of textile is thrown away, creating a lot of waste.
Polyester is one of the most popular fabrics derived from fossil fuels, and it is non-biodegradable, so it can stay in the landfills for more than 200 years.
Even natural materials such as cotton can be harmful to the environment, since they require enormous amounts of water and pesticides.
Furthermore, fast fashion brands use toxic and dangerous chemicals that pollute the environment, and are hazardous for workers, and the communities around the factory.
These textile dyes make the fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally!
Campaigns like Detoxing Fashion by Greenpeace have been pushing brands to stop using hazardous chemicals in their manufacturing processes.
3. How to spot fast fashion brands?
The fast-fashion model for producing cheap clothing is similar. Once you know their methods, you will be able to spot them easily. The most common fast fashion practices to look for are:
The materials of their garments:
Always look at what materials a company is using. Fast fashion brands usually use synthetics like polyester, nylon, acrylic, and conventional cotton, animal-derived materials, etc.
If they are using cheap fabrics that are poorly made, with synthetic materials such as polyester, that’s not a good sign.
On the other hand, it is a positive sign if a company uses mostly recycled, renewable, organic, and natural-based materials.
Transparency over their supply chains:
Feel free to take a look at their website and look for their intentions.
A company with environmental goals that doesn’t hide things will expose more information (+evidence!) for their projects.
The quality of the clothing:
How well are the garments made? Are they made to last, or the items include mainly synthetic and unsustainable materials?
Usually, the clothing made by fast fashion brands is low quality, and the pieces fall apart quickly.
Read more about the factories of the company.
Look if a specific brand was accused of using sweatshops and not paying a living wage to their workers.
You can do that with a quick online search.
The production model of the company:
Is the brand selling hundreds of styles? Are they adding new trendy clothing items often?
Is the brand following current trends? If yes, this is another sign of a fast-fashion brand.
There aren’t PERFECT and 100% eco-friendly companies. If a company shares both the good and bad things and their future goals, that is a good sign.
However, if they hide negative outcomes, showing only selected information, and bending the real data – that IS a lack of transparency and greenwashing.
4. What can you do about it?
Boycotting big fashion brands might not necessarily be the best choice. We need to demand change from these companies.
What can be done is:
1) Buy less in general
The rise of minimalism is rising, which is excellent since it promotes owning less and buying only what we truly need.
But even if you are not practicing minimalism, you can still drastically reduce the amounts of clothing you buy. Commit and get new things only if you genuinely need them.
2) Do not buy things that you will wear a few times
If you think a piece of clothing looks cute, but are not sure you will wear it plenty of times – then it is best to leave it.
Often, we get clothing items just because they are cheap, but they end up in the back of our wardrobes.
To avoid this, be more disciplined, and do not give in to cheap garments.
3) Think if you need it. Do you see yourself wearing it at least 30 times?
Do not buy a piece if you already have similar things at home, and you won’t wear it many times!
There is a general rule that is about using a clothing item AT LEAST 30 times. If you are not sure you will wear it that many times, leave it!
4) Buy second hand or borrow from a friend
In case you need something for a special occasion, try to borrow it from a friend, or look for it in second-hand stores (check online second-hand stores, too!).
5) Find a trustworthy brand that suits your style and budget
Find a brand that cares genuinely about being more sustainable, promoting slow fashion.
Buy things from them, in case you can’t find certain clothing items from second-hand stores.
6) Send a letter to the company and ask for their environmental and labor policies
To demand change, we need to put pressure on these companies.
To do that, you can directly contact the brand and ask what their policies are and if they can send you some reports/materials.
See an example of a letter in the end – use it the way it is, or feel free to make adjustments!
The truth is that when we start to look closely at different industries and products, we can find hidden and ugly sides.
The point is to educate ourselves as much as possible and make the best decision we can, objectively.
I often feel quite irritated by some fast fashion brands and the way they try to portray themselves as sustainably conscious.
Several companies’ goals sound great, but they have a vague explanation of how to reach them, and they do not show any legit proof for their claims.
All in all, be skeptical, and always do your research.
Or do your part by being a mindful consumer, and that’s all!
What do you think about the fast fashion industry? Are you trying to avoid it at all costs?
An example of a letter to a Fast fashion company:
- Write 1-2 sentences, introducing yourself (are you a blogger, an influencer, a customer, or merely curious to find out more).
- Share your concerns and reasons for writing to them
- If you have any information about the company – include it!
- Write all of your questions
Hello (if you have the name of a person or the name of the department – include it!),
I am (Merilin), and I’m behind Almost Zero Waste – a website that’s focusing on living sustainably and in harmony with our planet. (write 1-2 sentenses about yourself)
I’m writing to you because I would like to learn more about your fashion brand’s environmental and human impact. (write your concerns)
I want to ensure that the clothing (I am wearing/I plan or want to purchase) is created in ethical conditions, and the workers who produce these items are treated fairly.
I tried to find more information on your website about your company’s sustainability goals, but I couldn’t find anything/enough.
Would you answer the following questions:
Can you please share more information about the factories’ working conditions? Where are the factories located?
Do you have an ethics policy?
Do you check your factories for working conditions? Are there any reports/documents you can share?
What evidence can you send me about the working conditions in your factory?
(Feel free to include more questions.)
Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.