The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Fast-fashion is cheap to produce and buy, but the environmental and human rights cost is monumental.
What would you do if you found out that Louis Vuitton partnered with third party workshops that overworked its employees, didn't pay them well, and left the workers is dangerous work conditions? The world would be in an uproar. For the record, Louis Vuitton has excellent workshops.
Yet, this is exact what's happening behind the scenes of fast-fashion brands and not enough people are holding them to a high enough standard to make a difference. Fast fashion is an unsustainable fashion model that provides cheap and trendy clothing at the expense of workers, the environment, and the quality of the garments.
The practices of these retailers often lead to dire consequences both for humans and the environment. The pesticides from cotton farms can leak into water supplies, threatening citizens’ access to clean water. Additionally, the clothes produced by fast-fashion retailers are low quality/ non biodegradable and they often end up in landfills around the world, which further pollutes nature and peoples’ homes. Fast fashion promotes overconsumption, leading to wastefulness and damages to the environment.
According to the environmental health journal, many fast fashion factory workers are not paid a livable wage and are often exposed to unsafe working conditions, such as respiratory issues from poor ventilation and musculoskeletal issues from repetitive tasks. According to emerald insight, these poor conditions sometimes result in tragedies as seen in Bangladesh when a textile factory collapse at Rana Plaza killed over 1000 workers.
According to Cotton Up, farmers are also adversely affected by fast fashion practices. Many of these farmers live well below the poverty line and are often exploited to sell their crops at a lower price than the actual production cost. They have to endure pesticides and chemicals that can be detrimental to their heal after long periods of exposure.
These are the stakes at hand when retailers are chasing the dollar. They can no longer hide behind the excuse of using third party workshops that don't have to abide by strict regulations, and they can no longer use clothing materials that require great amounts of natural resources and chemicals.
The pollution is caused by chemical waste and non-degradable material, so fast fashion designers need to explore eco-friendly materials. Examples include, hemp (this material does not require a lot of water to grow, which could replace cotton that requires 10 gallons/plant)
Cathy is a writer for Green Eco Services and compiled a list of 20 eco friendly clothing fabrics.
“ Hemp plants are made from the Cannabis sativa plant and this variety contains no THC. Hemp does not need pesticides or fertilizers to grow fast. Strong, naturally UV resistant, biodegradable and compostable. Hemp has been used in many products for over 10,000 years,” Cathy said.
Soy, “ Soy Silk is made from the by-products of soy manufacturers, thus using post-consumer resources. It is biodegradable and compostable.”
Organic cotton, “This is cotton grown without toxic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic Cotton is grown under Fair Trade Guidelines and is biodegradable and compostable.”
Governments around the world need to require companies and subcontractors (farms, factories, textile producers, etc) to be transparent about their environmental and human rights impact by producing documentation for government oversight and investigation.
Fast fashion is a dangerous trend due to its practices, that continues to grow in popularity, primarily due to social media and its vast influence. This trend has direct negative effects on both the environment and people’s lives; it has to change its ways for the better.