High price of fast fashion

Taking a closer look at the effects of fast fashion and the future of clothing


Fashion’s impact: Fast fashion is causing a harsh impact on the environment due to an increase in the production of garments, emitting mass amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment. Image: Pixabay

Sasha Gurevich, Reporter

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick,” Miuccia Prada, a fashion designer and founder of Prada, said according to Harper’s Bazaar’s website. “Fashion is an instant language.”

Fashion has always been a language which communicated status amongst others. Wealthy people would wear complex clothing made out of luxury fabrics, while the middle class and the poor class wore very simple silhouettes made out of cheap fabrics. With fast fashion, that is no longer the case. Many people in the middle and lower classes have access to fashionable clothing through stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara and American Eagle, which make stylish clothes in mass amounts using cheap fabrics and labor.

Today’s fashion is about keeping up with current trends in a consumptive era. Because these companies are simply trying to keep up with the market, do not design these clothes to last a long time. Instead, they construct these clothing items out of cheap and nonbiodegradable synthetic materials, such as polyester and spandex. 

“More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels,” according to the New York Times.

Due to an increase in the production of clothes made from fossil fuels, fast fashion has had a drastic increase of carbon emissions.  

The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping,” according to an article from the United Nations environment program. “Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.”

Due to an increase in the number of garments being produced, many people are worrying about the potential results of the mass production of clothing and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment. 

With global production now exceeding 100 billion garments a year, groups are warning of ‘potentially catastrophic’ environmental damage if current growth trends continue,” according to the BBC’s website

Along with the increase in the production of garments, textile workers are forced to work long, toilsome hours with a very low salary. In addition, the retailers are exploiting the workers. 

“Working conditions in the textile industry are very bad,” Dr. Gisela Burckhardt, a former fast fashion retailer employee and director of FEMNET, a corporation that works for women’s rights in the garment industry in Asia, said in an article on DW.com. “We have discrimination against women, especially in India and Bangladesh. Women are sexually harassed.”

Along with discrimination in the workforce, the salary is low, angering many of the employees because the work is very arduous.

“The payment is very, very low,” Burckhardt said. “Even though in Bangladesh the minimum wage increased from about 60 euros to 85 euros (per month) in December, it is not a sufficient living wage and women need to work overtime to survive.”

Copious women have spoken out about the conditions in these factories and major corporations have been discouraging these employees from speaking out for a long time.

“We also have the problem of a lack of organization in the factories,” Burckhardt said. “If women try to organize themselves in trade unions, they are normally threatened by the management and have to leave the factory. These are some of the problems that have not been resolved.” 

To combat these issues with fast fashion, designers, business professors and the United Nations are trying to figure out how to solve these issues. 

“At the March meeting, UN Environment will formally launch the UN Alliance on Sustainable Fashion to encourage the private sector, governments and non-governmental organizations to create an industry-wide push for action to reduce fashion’s negative social, economic and environmental impact and turn it into a driver for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” according to the United Nations Environmental Program.

Across the world, lots of organizations are teaming up with the United Nations and their Ethical Fashion Initiative to improve the fashion industry and decrease the amount of harm resulting from it. For example, current Dutchess Meghan Markle is trying to combat the take-make-waste model, which is a saying that describes our current linear economic system and how we throw everything into landfills. Markle has begun to encourage people to start wearing biodegradable fabrics, such as wool.

Many fast fashion companies are trying to make their clothes out of fabrics which are less harmful for the environment. However, the boom in ‘athleisure wear,’ is drastically increasing emissions despite these companies trying to combat the problems with the increase in carbon emissions. “Textile manufacturing emits 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually,” according to a video made by CBS News.