A brief history of fast fashion and why it’s bad for you and the environment

Deborah Dzifa Makafui August 13, 2022
Fast fashion should be categorized as a global environmental justice issue due to the range and depth of its social and environmental violations. Photo: BBC

Fast fashion is a pretty recent phenomenon in the sector that harms workers, animals, and the environment severely. Here are some good reasons to avoid them whenever you can.

The 1800s saw a slowdown in fashion. You had to gather your own supplies of leather or wool, prepare them, weave the materials, and then create the clothing. As with the sewing machine, new technology was introduced during the Industrial Revolution. Making clothes grew quicker, simpler, and less expensive. Several dressmaking businesses arose to serve the middle classes.

There was still a difference between high fashion and high street in the 1960s and 1970s when youth were inventing new trends and using clothing as a means of self-expression. Low-cost fashion peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fast-fashion businesses and brands like Zara took over the high street while online shopping boomed.

Fast fashion

Fast fashion is characterized as low-cost, trendy clothes that quickly respond to customer demand by stealing design cues from the catwalk or celebrity culture and putting them on the high street. 

The phrase “fast fashion” has gained popularity in discussions of fashion, sustainability, and environmental awareness. In order to capitalize on current trends, the phrase is used to describe “cheaply created and priced items that replicate the latest catwalk and trendy styles which will be pumped through stores swiftly.”

The fast fashion model involves the quick design, production, distribution, and marketing of apparel. As a result, shops are able to offer huge amounts of a wider range of products, giving customers access to more fashion and product distinction at a lower cost. The cost of clothing is declining. Their quality declines as their prices fall thanks to the cheap materials and dye being used. Prices are falling, but fashion trends are rising.

Fast fashion has altered how individuals purchase and discard clothing since it offers affordable, widely accessible, and trendy items. Fast fashion has become a prominent business model by offering vast amounts of apparel at low prices, which has driven up the consumption of clothing. The latest fashions are now accessible to all consumer classes, which is frequently referred to as “decentralizing” fashion.

However, the threats to human and environmental health posed by cheap clothing are concealed throughout each garment’s lifespan. The environmental and social costs associated with the textile industry are extensive, ranging from the water-intensive cotton cultivation process to the discharge of untreated dyes into nearby water sources to the low pay and unfavorable working conditions of the workforce.

Its after-effects on the ecosystem 

A significant amount of textile waste is produced due to the speed at which clothing is manufactured and the increasing number of clothes that consumers discard. Statistics indicate that every year, more than 500 million kilos of unwanted clothing are disposed of in landfills in Australia alone. Although fast fashion allows customers to purchase more clothing for less money, environmental health risks are disproportionately worse for people who work in or reside close to textile production facilities. Millions of tons of textile waste are currently being generated in landfills and other uncontrolled environments as a result of increased consumption habits.

Untreated hazardous wastewater is a consequence of textile industries in nations that mass-produce fast fashion items. Why is it flawed? Lead, mercury, and arsenic are three chemicals found in this textile waste that are particularly dangerous to aquatic and terrestrial life. Direct discharge of wastewater into rivers occurs in garment companies/factories.

On Earth, we require healthy soil and healthy trees in order to grow food. They are both vital for reducing global warming since they both absorb CO2. The fact that the fast fashion industry harms soil, woodlands, and our entire ecosystems is still another issue with it. The pastures are overgrazed by sheep and goats that are grown for their wool. Overgrazing causes starvation, food shortages, plant species extinction, soil erosion, and other environmental problems. The soil is also deteriorated by chemicals used in the manufacture of textiles like cotton.

The influence of fast fashion is further increased by cheap textiles. One of the most often used fabrics is polyester. It comes from fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and when cleaned, can release tiny fibers that increase the amount of plastic in our oceans. The scale required by quick fashion, however, can make even “natural” fibers problematic. Pesticides and a lot of water are needed to grow conventional cotton in underdeveloped nations. This increases the likelihood of drought, puts a tremendous amount of stress on water basins, and fuels competition for resources between businesses and local populations.

The demand for enormous quantities of affordable apparel has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, and as a result, environmental and social conditions have deteriorated along every link in the supply chain. The scientific literature, studies, and discussions surrounding environmental justice have mostly been silent on the impact of fast fashion on the environment and human health. Fast fashion should be categorized as a global environmental justice issue due to the range and depth of its social and environmental violations.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 13, 2022


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates