What is Fast Fashion?

A gleaming leather jacket hangs on the polished rack of a department store. There are ten others just like it. It’s in fashion and for a cheap price. A girl picks it up and tries the jacket on. It fits. A smile lifts the corners of her mouth as she adds it to her cart next to a pair of new shoes and a couple t-shirts that were on sale. 

She doesn’t know that a girl her age is sitting in a factory with the stench of chemicals polluting the air, in a crowded room stuffed past capacity to fit in more workers. The water in her village is polluted from the very factory she works in. She barely makes enough money to survive and only sees her family 1-2 times a year while she works. This morning she’s been forced to work longer and harder because competitive companies want to be able to sell clothes at a lower price to beat their competitors. Her young life already carries weight she should not have to contend with, but this is the truth of our time. 

 This is Fast Fashion. 

Fast fashion is the product of major companies competing with one another to sell clothes as quickly as possible to consumers. Profit is valued over worker safety and our environment. The effects on our environment, and on human lives, of producing clothes at such a fast pace are extreme. According to research done by the Huffington Post, the production of one T-shirt alone, “requires 700 gallons of water, .22 pounds of fertilizers, .01 pounds of pesticides and 1.2 pounds of fossil fuels!”

Garment workers are only paid a living wage, enough money to provide for their family’s needs for one week. The Fashion Revolution, a social enterprise working to bring equality and safety to the clothing industry, reported on worker wages. In order to make a profit, workers are paid at the lowest possible rate that is legally acceptable. Making less than $1.90 a day, garment workers are barely able to survive.   

Human rights among the fashion industry have long been an issue. In 2013, over 1,000 workers lost their lives in a garment factory which collapsed due to its owners not keeping up with building codes. Production value was placed over human value, and this is far too often the case. 

“The Global Slavery Index (2014) estimates that 36 million people are living in modern slavery today, many of whom are working in the supply chains of brands and retailers.” (Ethical Fashion Forum) Modern slavery includes; domestic servitude, sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, child labor, and forced marriage. Victims are often kept under false pretense or threats of violence. Commercial businesses that participate in fast fashion are only contributing to this global form of slavery (End Slavery Now). 

Fast Fashion is negatively impacting our environment, our resources, and the lives of millions of people. To make a difference it’s up to us, customers, to learn as much as we can and use our resources to aid those who are trapped in modern day slavery.  

Want to learn more? Check back next month and we’ll dig even deeper and talk about the effects on garment workers in this industry. In the meantime, check out these valuable resources: 

The True Cost Film 

Huaywasi Blog


Author: Sherie James

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