3 Fast Facts About Fast Fashion

February 15, 2018

1. Fast Fashion is designed to be replaced quickly.

Fast fashion companies such as H&M and Zara have streamlined all their processes, and know what their consumers want before consumers even know themselves. On the other hand, most traditional fashion retailers take around nine months to a year to go through the whole process from designing to having products in on shelves in stores. Zara has got it down to two weeks! From runway to store. Crazy! Fashion was once very elitist, but now Fashion Week can be streamed live online from the comfort of your couch.

While the new, mainstream accessibility of fashion is amazing, the adoption of fast fashion creates a truly unprecedented amount of waste. Americans now throw away over 14 million tons of textiles per year! We’re beginning to value quantity over quality and we’re becoming more compulsive in our purchasing decisions since prices are so cheap. There is a reduced demand for clothes that last, because clothes that fall apart or go out of style can be cheaply replaced. This type of short term thinking is dangerous for our environment.

Now that you know all of this, what can you do about it? One thing that I love is a campaign set up by Livia Firth, of Eco-Age, called the #30Wears challenge. Livia challenges people to only purchase a piece of clothing if they’ll wear it a minimum of thirty times. So next time you’re about to buy new clothes, ask yourself: “Will I wear it at least thirty times?” If you’re truly honest with yourself, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll say – “Probably not”

2. It can take up to 1,800 gallons of water to produce just one pair of jeans.

Cotton is grown in some of the most arid regions of the world; but it is a super thirsty plant and it needs a bunch of irrigation to be able to grow. Consequently, to grow enough cotton to make an entire pair of jeans requires a substantial amount of water. Nearly 70% of the water that is used in the lifecycle of a pair of jeans occurs in the production of cotton and fibre! That’s before the dyeing processes, and all of our laundering.

On average Americans owns 8 pairs of jeans, and one out of ten people in the world don’t have access to clean water. We’re using quite a lot of water to make sure we all have the right pair for the right occasion!

As awful as this all sounds—these huge, environmental world problems are the last things that we’re thinking about while picking out a new piece for our wardrobes. Fashion is an outward expression of how we view ourselves, but not too many of us know the true cost of our purchases on the environment. But we as consumers, by shopping selectively, actually hold all of the power when it comes to changing what we don’t like about an industry. It’s just a matter of staying informed, and voting with your dollar! Oh, and simple things like not washing your jeans as much, seems small, but makes a difference!

As Levi’s CEO says, a decent pair of jeans shouldn’t need to be machine-washed. Ever. And Levi’s own development, of a technology that they call Water<Less could save 50 billion liters of water by 2020, if adopted on a larger scale. So there is hope!

3. "Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil."

Okay, in full disclosure, this is less of verifiable fact and more of a quote. Eileen Fisher—the fashion tycoon—said it while she was receiving an environmental award in 2015 for her efforts in sustainable practices with her fashion label. [7]

When we think of pollution, plastic seas and big power plants come to mind; less so the cute cotton top you bought on sale last week hanging in the wardrobe. But the dark side to the glamorous industry of fashion is the fact that it does have a very detrimental effect on the environment.

On a brighter note; it is totally within our power to change this; Fisher’s quote has since circled all around the Internet. And throughout the fashion industry it has inspired people to make changes to their trading practices and purchasing habits.

The power is in our hands, as consumers. As our purchases in sustainable companies puts pressure on less ethical companies to step up. Also, a large proportion of environmental impact occurs once we have brought the products home; that means the laundering, drying and disposal of garments.

Repairing that small hole in a seam instead of replacing the whole piece, or disposing of clothes at places that recycle them, like Reformation!


Learn more about the author, Allie Dye:

Conscious Clothing Consumer

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A fashion graduate from the UK, I became totally intrigued by fashion ethics at university and wanted to become a part of the conversation online. Since returning from a year living in Sydney, Australia I set up Conscious Clothing Consumer to contribute to a positive change online.