Environment, Fashion, General, Health, Lifestyle

Say No to Fast Fashion: Part 1

If you were to start asking people on the street if they knew what fast fashion was, you would likely get a variety of different responses. Some people might know exactly what you are talking about and exactly what the ramifications of it are. Some 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 fast fashion?

So first, let’s define fast fashion. We already gave you a little hint: fast fashion is a cycle. Specifically, 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: autumn/winter, cruise/resort spring/summer, 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. 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 means that consumers are buying clothes in volumes like never before.

Why say no?

Cheap clothes? And lots of 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 entire new consumer base could afford trendy clothes. However the negative impacts it has had have become to hard to ignore.

Economic Impacts

Rana Plaza building collapse

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 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.

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 buy at-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. In 1992 there was 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.

a river polluted by red dye

Chemicals and dyes used in textile production often pollute water supply // Photo Courtesy of EcoWatch

“But wait,” you may say, “I donate my clothes!” 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 over production 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?

worker packaging garments at his desk

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 sun-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.

Here at luminora, we are happy to say that all fashion is not created equal and we hope to convince others of the same!

Stay tuned for a future blog post about what you can do to help!

Further Reading:

Council for Textile Recycling website

Article NPR – What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable, and Cheap

True Cost – Documentary on Netflix

 

UPDATE 6/13/18 – Part 2 is now published! Click here to read it!

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