Fast fashion is a problem: What can brands do to address this issue?
Updated: Apr 19
When we think of fashion, we think of glamour, luxury, and beauty. We rarely think of the enormous stretches of textile-wasteland and the environmental implications of producing and destroying a mass amount of fabric. If we did, perhaps we could suppress the urge to indulge in fast-fashion with more success.
The Good Trade, a digital publication for sustainable living, describes ‘fast-fashion’ as “a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. Garment production utilizes trend replication and low-quality materials (like synthetic fabrics) in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public.”
The benefits of fast fashion are clear; it democratizes stylish clothing and gives consumers the opportunity to purchase up-to-the-minute styles at an affordable price. Despite these benefits, the mass-production of low-quality clothes comes at an extremely high price.
In addition to the promulgation of a “disposable” mentality, the fashion industry is responsible for water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Fashion is also responsible for massive amounts of solid waste dumped in landfills each year.
According to the BBC, 85% of all textiles in the US are wasted–roughly 13 million tons per year in 2017–either dumped in landfill or burned. Globally–92 million tons.
Whereas clothing sales doubled between 2000 and 2015, the number of times an item was worn decreased by 36%. If current trends persist, by 2030, 143 million tons of waste will be produced by the fashion industry alone.
Textile dyeing accounts for 20% of global wastewater, contaminating the earth’s water supply with toxic chemicals. Washing clothes releases 500 billion tons of plastic fibers into the ocean each year–that’s equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. Next time you see news about vanishing coral reefs or loss of marine life, think about the clothes on your body.
Textile mills and burning clothes account for 10% of global carbon emissions, sending billions of tons of carcinogenic soot into the air. These greenhouse gasses attack the earth’s atmosphere, increasing the rate of natural disasters as global temperatures rise.
Aside from the environmental impacts, humanitarian issues arise from dramatic amounts of wasted water. It takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt. That t-shirt that hasn’t made it out of the back of your closet could have kept one person hydrated for 900 days.
What’s it going to take to make clothes worth wearing again?
The rise of social media and a materialistic culture has fabricated a generation obsessed with wanting ‘more’ with no regard to the reality of sustaining ‘more’. Next time you find yourself browsing fast-fashion brands, such as Shein, FashionNova, Zara, and Forever21, consider their dismissal of environmental and humanitarian crises before investing.
One brand that is challenging the fast-fashion industry and leading the way in communicating its sustainability efforts is Sami Miro Vintage.
Sami Miro Vintage takes pride in its mission to protect Mother Earth and strives to be eco-conscious through its entire supply chain. The brand releases limited collections of womenswear, made from only upcycled and vintage fabrics, that glamorize minimizing waste.
The designer behind it all, Sami Miro, uses Instagram to promote fashion-sustainability by sharing behind-the-scenes videos that demonstrate her upcycling process from start to finish. These DIY videos are a great way for the brand to interact with its customer base while inspiring people to look for new ways to use old things.
Taking a reuse and reconstruct approach to fashion will not only reduce waste and pollution, and quite possibly save lives, it will also result in more unique and creative designs. If you want to save money while honing your personal style, there’s nothing more ‘you’ than your own upcycled creations.
By Aileen Brown
Aileen is a student of the school of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University, Class of 2022. She is a fashion enthusiast and designer ready to enter the fashion industry upon graduation.