The Dark Side of Fashion

With Black Friday in our rear view mirrors and Christmas season right around the corner, it’s high time for consumerism in the United States. This time of year is when companies make the most sales and produce the most product. In one of those industries, the effects of the expedited production process takes a toll on not only the industry itself, but also the workers and, on an ever bigger scale, the planet as a whole. 

When you buy a new piece of clothing, a surge of dopamine is produced in your brain due to its anticipation of a reward. This dopamine rush is majorly satisfying but just as majorly responsible for the rise of the fast fashion industry. 

Since the early 2010s, the popularity surrounding companies such as H&M, Zara, Forever21, etc. has significantly increased, mirroring the rise of social media usage and the effect of internet shopping. 

Every year, over $1 trillion is made in fashion consumption. These pieces of clothing being bought are worn for half the amount of time that clothing would be worn pre-fast fashion. The average American woman buys roughly 68 articles of clothing per year and only wears each piece three times or less. Within that chunk of yearly clothing, 87% of it ends up in landfills or is incinerated. 

While the rise of consumer culture and the excessive needs of it is a primary contributor to this amount of waste, the fast fashion companies themselves play a major role in the atrocious effects on the environment as well as the decline of the designer brand’s popularity. 

Brands such as Ralph Lauren, GAP, Hollister, and other designer brands are being blown out of the water by the new production methods that fast-fashion companies use. 

Usually, it takes up to two years for a brand to release a new line but in stores like H&M, there are new pieces being sent to stores every week. This is due to the new production method known as dynamic assortment. This new model of production has been proven to increase store traffic.

So, not only is there an immense selection at these stores, but due to the cheaper materials that the clothing is made with and the cheap labor that these companies are exploiting, the clothing is significantly more affordable. This therefore makes these stores more approachable and popular than the more expensive alternative.

Zara, one of the largest fast fashion brands, produces around 840 million articles of clothing every year for it’s 6,000 stores around the world. This mass production requires huge factories in developing countries, preying on the citizens looking for work and the poor countries looking for national income. They have provided jobs and been what the countries were looking for, plus some other more detrimental side effects.

These factories are poisoning rivers and depleting ancient forests of their trees. These production facilities, the transportation from the facilities to distribution centers and the disposal of the clothing are causing severe environmental risks. 

The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothing per year. The clothing that is donated is held in the donation center for a little over a month until it is bought by clothing suppliers in developing countries. However, only a small percentage of the clothing that gets sent to these countries is actually utilized. The majority of the clothes are put in landfills and subsequently incinerated. 

This entire process of excessively producing clothing made of unsustainable materials, the distribution to stores all around the world almost daily and the huge amount of consumerism and impatience with products has lead to the fashion industry producing more than 8% of the global greenhouse emissions, equally the emissions of the entire European Union. Within the next 10 years, with the expectation of the predicted 5% growth risk, the amount of emissions will increase by 60%.

These planetary threats that this industry incites affects everyone just as much as the pressure of buying a new outfit for an event does. The world as we know is rapidly approaching a status of health that is not sustainable for human activity. 

By wearing your clothes 9 months longer than you usually do and shopping in consignment, vintage or thrift shops rather than at a fast fashion company, the emissions could drop by 30% in the next five years. 

Climate change and the Earth’s livability is now up to our generation and by taking small steps to reject companies that destroy ecosystems and sustainable production methods, each one of us could be participating in actions that could literally save the world.

So! This Christmas season, consider looking in a second-hand store or spending a little bit more in order to avoid contributing to the dark world of fast fashion.

 

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