I used to spend hours shopping during massive sale periods and get caught in well-known fashion retailers before I knew anything about fast fashion and its impacts on real lives and the planet.
Based on dictionary.com, fast fashion is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” These retailers usually manufacture their new collections quickly and at low cost. Batch after batch, the cycle never ends.
Photo credit: Clean Clothes Campaign
If you search “fast fashion” on google, you would be shocked to find the facts and stats on how much fast fashion exploits and pollutes. Teen Vogue and Kristen Leo summarized it well; Fast fashion works on exploitative labour conditions and it destroys the environment. I say, it is modern-day slavery.
Documentaries like “The True Cost” brings us into the reality of the exploitation that happens in sweatshops. Mostly in the third world countries, people (even children!) slog it out in poor working conditions- barely getting proper light and air ventilation. Deprived of workers rights, they stay for long hours in run-down factories, put their health and lives at risk, to manufacture and meet the large production demands by the big brands. All to earn a living but are often paid unfairly, severely under the minimum wage. In Bangladesh, there are more than 3.6 million people in the garment making industry, making only about 39.5 cents per hour.
Behind every piece of clothing, every stitch is a person’s handiwork. The fast fashion cycle does not only force people into labour, but it also harms our planet with massive pollution, resulting in health complications and death.
Water used to treat fabric, mixed with bleaching agents, chemicals and dyes flow into freshwater resources. 60% of China’s water is polluted, there are over 400 “cancer village” where the lives of villagers are endangered due to the lack of access to clean water. Besides water, air and soil pollution are also a result of the overproduction.
Photo credit:lu.palmerini, CFP
A quote by Lucy Siegle gripped me,
“Fast fashion isn’t free, someone somewhere is paying.”
What if we can disrupt and turn around this vicious cycle of enslaving people to the latest trends, and forced labour? What if we use fashion to empower, to build lives and bring about hope and freedom.
Think about it.We can’t change the world alone, but we can all make a difference. Collectively as a community, we can bring about a fashion revolution.