If you were to start asking people on the street if they knew what fast-fashion was, or what are the most famous "fast-fashion" brands, you would likely get a variety of strange responses.
Some people might know exactly what you are talking about and exactly what the ramifications of it are.
But let me tell you the truth ...
They are so rare!
Many people might have heard of the term or even might have a good guess of what it could mean. The majority of people, however, have probably never heard of the term fast-fashion, despite the fact that nearly everyone these days contributes to its cycle.
What is a fast-fashion?
Fast-fashion refers to the sped up cycle of fashion that has been created in recent years by increasing consumer demand and decreasing production time on clothes.
To break it down even further, fashion used to only happen in 4 seasons per year:
- and high summer
Within the last decade or so, however, fashion cycles have been reduced from months to weeks!
The cycle of fashion (what's in style and what's going out of style) is faster than ever. Thus, we get the term fast-fashion. Popular stores like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara have built their empires off of the fast-fashion model.
You don't believe it?
Just running a search of fast-fashion retailers on Google will provide you with a slew of other brands, both national and international.
Another major component of fast-fashion is low-cost manufacturing, which turns into low-cost goods being sold to the consumer. These low prices, coupled with a high volume of new styles that are weeks apart from each other
and the result?
Consumers are buying clothes in volumes like never before.
Why fast-fashion is bad?
Cheap clothes. How can that a be bad? You can have an entirely new wardrobe every year if you wanted to. Well even though its still a relatively new concept, fast fashion has already done plenty of damage.
To the credit of companies that pioneered the idea of fast-fashion, they didn't have bad intentions when they created it.
Fast-fashion was meant to make fashionable clothes cheaper so an entirely new consumer base could afford trendy clothes. However, the negative impacts it has had have become too hard to ignore.
Reason #1: Economic Impacts
The Rana Plaza textile factory building after it collapsed in 2013
Photo Courtesy of the New York Times.
Part of the reason why the products pushed out by these brands are so cheap, is because of the cheap labor they employ to make the products.
It's no secret that in developing countries there is a huge problem with unfair working conditions.
However, in the fashion industry, that problem is magnified by the pressure brands put on manufacturers to make an enormous amount of clothes at such a fast pace.
Perhaps there is no better example than the Rana Plaza building collapse disaster that happened 2013 in Bangladesh.
More than 1,100 people died when the 8 story building collapsed around them. At least 2,500 more people were injured by the disaster. This event became the deadliest in the modern history of the fashion industry.
And there are countless reports of events like it where unsafe working conditions lead to death and injury to factory workers.
Reason #2: Environmental Impacts
Perhaps a little more specific to the fashion industry is the problem of textile waste. People are buying more clothes, but people are also throwing away more clothes.
Think about it. If someone buys a t-shirt for $10, wash it a couple of times, and the cheap fabric gets a hole in it!
Is it worth it to fix it?
Not when you can just throw it out and buy a new one for $10 or less.
According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average person creates about 82 pounds of textile waste per year. Can you believe it?
In 1992 there were an estimated 18.2 billion pounds of textile waste in landfills. By 2009 that number had grown to 25.46 billion pounds. By 2019, that number is expected to jump to 35.4 billion pounds.
Chemicals and dyes used in textile production often pollute the water supply
you may say: "I donate my clothes!"
Yes, while we may have good intentions in donating our clothes to consignment shops, the truth is that only 15% of clothes actually get donated.
Part of the consequence for clothes being made so cheaply is that they can only withstand so much use. By the time one person has gotten there wear out of something, it is in no shape to be resold elsewhere.
And oftentimes fast-fashion retailers might be just as much or cheaper than consignment stores anyway, so people looking for a deal will just opt for newer fashions.
Another part of the environmental effects goes back to production. Specifically, the pollution that production creates.
Again, while pollution from production is not something that is specific to the fashion industry, the problem is magnified by the overproduction of clothes and the chemicals used in the process.
Often times the dyes and chemicals used to make clothing run-off into local water supply near factories. This makes the water undrinkable and otherwise unusable and devastates local communities.
How are we doing our part?
One of our workers packaging garments at our facility in NYC
Having earned a law degree with a concentration in human rights and women's issues, I know firsthand the cost of not treating other human lives with respect.
As the founder of a sun-protective clothing brand whose primary goal is to help prevent skin cancer and increase awareness, I know the good the fashion can do.
Having said that, I’m ashamed to see issues like this giving the fashion industry a negative reputation.
The business of fashion, when conducted ethically and with a greater purpose, can serve basic needs and enhance the experiences we all partake in daily.
I'm proud to say all of our products are made in the USA where I know the workers who make my products receive fair pay and work under safe labor conditions.
In addition, to obtain UV-protection we do not use chemicals that ultimately wash out into our environment.
Our yarn is infused with an all natural, plant-based oil which is not toxic to our environment, allowing for permanent sun-protection that lasts a lifetime.
Another way we help is not in the actions we take, but rather, in the actions we don't take. Many fast-fashion retailers release cycles of clothing on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis.
At luminora, however, we do not want to perpetuate this fast cycle and only choose to release new collections twice a year (Spring/Summer and Resort) consisting of timeless, classic pieces that can be worn for years to come.
By focusing on quality rather than quantity, we are able to deliver a higher level of value and service to our customers.
How can I make a difference? (Solutions)
Now it's time to put a positive spin on this issue and show how YOU can help make a difference.
Fast-fashion is a cycle and we can't expect fast-fashion retailers to put a stop to it. What we can do is make the effort to be more mindful of our choices.
As we mentioned, only 15% of garments actually make their way to consignment stores. Those that are donated can't be resold because of the condition they are in.
But sometimes it is still the best way to purge your closet of some things you do not want anymore.
So before you donate, take a look at the clothes. Any holes? Any stains? Any funny smells?
No? Then you can probably safely donate your clothes.
Like with any other waste, recycling your textiles can be a great alternative to throwing them out.
It's a concept that has actually been around for decades, but still something that many don't seem to know much about.
One of the most popular drop-off textile recycling sites is actually ironically one of the world's biggest fast-fashion retailers:
If you drop off your clothes they will give you a 15% coupon for a future purpose. However, you have to be careful because H&M is still a fast-fashion retailer;
At the end of the day, their goal is to get you to buy more clothes. They may be trying to help out, but they may be further perpetuating the problem by giving out coupons to get customers in the store.
Alternatives include looking at websites like Earth 911, Not only will it tell you where you where you can recycle old clothes, but also where you can recycle tons of other things as well!
Everything from tennis balls, to refrigerators, to Christmas trees. Another company Planet Aid also offers cloth recycling, though in the form of collection bins that they set up in public places. It is another great alternative if you just want to drop and go.
Some states have even implemented curbside pickup for textiles. Other places have local small businesses that do textile recycling.
Just a quick google search should tell you what is available in your area!
Got a raggedy old t-shirt with so many holes resembling a slice of Swiss cheese?
If you don't really feel like making the trip all the way to a donation center for 1 or 2 things, just repurpose it.
There are tons of DIY tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest on how to cut up and re-make old clothing something entirely new!
Just check out some of our favorites below.
And if something really is just too worn out to make anything out of it, just use it as a cleaning rag! That way you are saving one more garment from going into a landfill and a ton of paper towels from going in the trash as well.
- How to Make a No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag in 10 Minutes
- DIY Bodysuit Out of a Tank Top
- DIY Refashioned Track Pants
- Make Headbands Out of Shirts
- How to Tie an Old T-Shirt into a Girls Dress
- 41 Insanely Easy Ways to Transform Your Shirts for Summer
When you do buy clothes, be a conscious consumer. Is what your buying built to last?
Or is it gonna fall apart in a year?
Some clothing companies are more concerned with staying on trend, so their clothes are made to last only until the next trend comes along.
It's up to YOU to make the right choice for you!
Another big problem occurs when people buy entire outfits around one piece.
Before you start buying an entire outfit to match one new item, think about what you already own. Is there something already in your closet that would match?
Chances are there is indeed something. Not only will thinking about this reduce your consumption, but it will also give new life to old pieces you already have.
If we all stopped and took a moment to think about our clothing consumption and the textiles we throw away, the world will become a much happier place for all.
And the environment will thank you!