Fast fashion can be defined as cheap and trendy clothing. These trend-focused fashion designs are inspired by current trends and/or celebrities and move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet demand.
The tradition of introducing new lines on a seasonal basis is challenged as a result of fast fashion. It’s not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week to stay on-trend.
What is the problem with fast fashion?
Fast fashion’s lack of sustainability and impact on the environment is enormous. The pressure to reduce costs of material and speed up production time means that corners are more likely to be cut.
Fast fashion uses cheap, toxic textile dyes during manufacturing, something which has led to the fashion industry, becoming the second-largest polluter of clean water globally (after agriculture). It also uses human-made textiles derived from fossil fuels, like polyester, which contribute not only to global warming, but also the plastic pollution of the oceans. When put through the wash, these types of textiles can shed and pollute the water with plastic microfibers. They’re definitely not sustainable!
The speed at which cheap fashion garments are produced also means that more and more clothes are disposed of by consumers, creating vast amounts of waste that end up in a landfill. It encourages a ‘throw-away’ culture because of both the built-in obsolescence of the products and the speed of new fashion trends. It makes consumers believe that they need to shop frequently to stay across trends, creating a constant sense of dissatisfaction with their current wardrobe.
There’s also a human cost, as fast fashion also impacts the workers who make the clothes. They often work dangerous environments for little pay and without basic human rights.
Fast fashion statistics and facts
Globally, The fast fashion industry produces around 1 billion garments every year. It also emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, which outweighs the annual carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined.
If the demand for fashion continues to grow at the current rate, the total carbon footprint of clothing will grow to 3,978 megatonnes by 2050. The fast fashion industry would monopolise 26% of the global carbon budget required to keep the planet within 2 degrees of warming.
Ninety-two million tons of waste came from the fashion industry in 2015 alone, with only 1% of this waste being genuinely recyclable.
In the UK alone, £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill every year. Some fabrics are never even worn! The Environmental Audit Committee found that 15% of clothing fabric is wasted at the cut-off stage of production before it even reaches stores.
20% of global wastewater comes via the fashion industry, resulting in 0.6 – 1.7 million tons of microfibres being deposited in the ocean annually
It currently takes 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in 48 hours