Hiya, well back at the end of February, I made myself a small commitment. In that I wasn’t going to buy anything from Primark during the whole of March; or actually any of these fast fashion outlets, why do we always target Primark eh? At the time this seemed like a pretty good target, but then we were oblivious as to what would occur within the following months… So here I am writing this now in mid August, having only brought one pair of trainers from sports direct since then (my old ones were too big) as well as a few clothes from “Aesthentials”, which from the name you can probably guess is an online shop specialising in 90s, pastel, grunge and “tumblr” styles. Due to this, we will assume that their practices are “ok”…
So there’s no doubt that the boycott of fast fashion would be a downright positive decision . Yet it is much easier said than done because realistically we know that “fast” items are both easier for us to get our hands on and that they are far more affordable! Consequently it would be stupid for us to blame ourselves for choosing to purchase fast fashion items. Because if you are young and poor, then you are not going to want to be spending nearly £60 quid on a pair of joggies!
And it is not only yourself who would suffer from the boycott of fast fashion, but it is going to be those who are working in retail. Because without this industry there would be well over half a million less people working. But at the same time what if everyone brought from their local boutique maybe less often but spent the same amount of money, meaning those working in the shop would be earning just the same though would be selling less in weight, while those making the clothing will be actually get to receive a bit more than a pittance. While what if fewer non recyclable and non biodegradable materials were extracted, and that clothing that had already been made would last for a few generations, rather being worn once or twice then dossed into the rubbish bin? Now this may sound a little utopian, but should there not at least be an attempt made to make the fast fashion industry less ugly. The thought and complexity of achieving these aims may subsequently make you feel rather powerless. Nevertheless when we break this down, there may be small steps which anyone can take to reduce the affects of the fast fashion industry, and instead enhance the predominance of alternatives.
While again it is important to explain the fast fashion industry in depth, so that we can fully understand it, in order to voice why we are against it. Thus this post, being the first par of the series will take a look at some of the practices and the detrimental impacts off the fast fashion industry, while the second post will explore ways in which you hold the power to go about tackling this…
How the Fast Fashion Industry Works
According to the Oxford definition, fast fashion is
” Inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.”
So why on earth is it so cheap to buy certain items of clothing? Well for a start labour costs are extremely low, with most production taking place in the poorest countries which do not necessarily have a minimum wage. Meanwhile within the countries which do such as in India, over half of workers do not receive it such in Pakistan where 87% of women are paid less than the minimum wage. The lack of reasonable pay subsequently means that the life conditions of these people are going to be terrible, with an estimated 300 million cotton producers living in poverty meanwhile an estimated 40.3 million people are estimated to be working in some kind of modern slavery. A quarter of those being children (source, Eco Warrior Princess). These methods used also fail to protect the environment which means that it is easier and thus cheaper to produce these. Even if it means that 20% of water waste worldwide happens by manufacturing processes of fast fashion, 19.6 million tons of used textile waste is produced each year- only in the USA! And if these trends continue to grow, it’s expected the industry will count for 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore although it is cheap and easy for us to get our hands on, one can barely begin to imagine the catastrophic damage to the environment!
Mass Market Retailers
This term basically means that these products are produced on a large scale for a significant number of consumers. Now this might sound harmless but let’s think about why this is the case.
Well consumers are basically demanding a large number of clothing due to the price, and as the demand increases, it means that the scale of production will increase once again. Dropping the price per unit. The reason why this is harmful is because it means that those working on very low wages, are going to be expected to work at an even harder rate meanwhile the environmental damage will be worsened still. Remember that it takes 1000 gallons of water to manufacture only one pair of jeans!
In Response to the Latest Trends
If there are many markets which can produce cheap, trendy and “nice” items, it means that the customer is bound to feel almost obliged to respond, even if within a few months they become “bored” of it. This is pretty evident with Australians buying an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles a year, just to discard about 23 kilograms into landfill!
Now would it not be nice if there was an alternative option to this, such as being able to buy products which are just as nice, without indirectly harming the environment. I am aware that this isn’t always possible, yet there is more than one way at going about buying nice and affordable clothing!
What about the economy?
I know that especially after this pandemic, work within retail is very under threat. Already many shops have gone into administration following the coronavirus, therefore surely it is more important than ever to be supporting these retail outlets! Otherwise further shops will follow this trend, and end up going out of business. Nevertheless some of these managers are forking huge amounts of money! For example, Mahmud Kamani, the co founder and joint CEO of Boohoo has a net worth of over £1 billion whilst if you think this is bad, chairman of Zara, Amancio Ortega Gaona, has a net worth of nearly $70 billion making him the second wealthiest person in Europe. This shows that though may be supporting some jobs if we are continue to support the fast fashion industry, we are also helping incredibly wealthy people, to become even more wealthy- and yes, there are alternatives…
But how does this all add up, because we know how hard it is to find an affordable item from an ethical brand, and if we choose to instead buy second hand clothing then how can we be supporting any economy? Meanwhile surely these exploited workers will now be made more worse off?
Well my follow up post is going to illustrate ways in which we can go about tackling all of these issues, therefore please don’t lose hope 🙂