Clothing is a way of expression and impression; it holds significance as it recognizes one’s culture and tradition. It marks the flavour, the colour of an occasion. Looking good and presentable is necessary, as we are social beings. We change our looks, our apparel to look new and fresh. Every season has its clothes: summer passes with vibrant colors and light-weighted clothes, while winter is all about putting up ‘that extra jacket.’ It is called fashion-the style of clothing.
The new designs, and fresh themes, set up trends every fashion-season. But do you count how many seasons do we have? A new season every week! Yes, you read it right, it’s 52 seasons or more in a year. It’s fast fashion, a way of business in which fashion-trends change with the blink of an eye. New designs flood the market as soon as they flare the catwalk. FAST FASHION INDUSTRY is the buzz of the town from a while now.
Customer demands are met within days to reach pinnacles of profit. Fast fashion gives a broad range of choices to the customers every single day, a new design flashes in the market. In 2019, it became an industry of 36 billion US$. This meteoric rise indicates that we consume 80 billion new clothes per year!
FAST FASHION is a global issue. Let’s reconsider all these stats. Is fast fashion worth it? Do you need a new look every week? Can fast fashion be seen over the environment? Is the industry justifying its workers? And what are the issues hovering over fast fashion, and what are the alternatives? We will answer such questions in the upcoming sections. But at first, let’s dig into the process of fast fashion.
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HOW FAST FASHION WORKS?
Earlier, we had four seasons a year. Designers had to sit long ago with pencils and papers to make a design. The designs took along to reach the market, the production and distribution took time. But with the rise in the demands, the industry took a new profit-making module that works on the following steps:-
A. QUICK RESPONSE-
The designers catch the demands very instantly. They create ‘knockoffs’ (replica of a design with a bit of modification; legal)of the trends which celebrities don or the fashion-shows exhibit. It cuts the time to design new clothes, and more trends come out simultaneously. It also helps in setting trends every week. The public gets a broad range of choices.
B. LARGE SCALE PRODUCTION-
When the designs abound, the production also increases. The mass-production helps in cutting the costs, as the stocks are filled and supply increases. The fabrics become ready till the design comes out; to save time. A cloth is then taken to dye and wash. The whole process gets done within two months or so, which earlier took a year. The clothes then reach the stocks. The companies then plan the launch dates for the designs.
C. QUANTITY > QUALITY-
As the decades passed, the interest of the consumers swung from quality to quantity. People started accepting poor fabrics at a low price, as all they want is a good design. The companies now focus on cheap fibers that don’t last long. It compels people to buy new cloth more often, as the fabric becomes weary very soon. The reputed brands end up doing the same as they enter the fast fashion industry.
PROBLEMS WITH FAST FASHION.
The fast-fashion industry is the third-largest contributor to world pollution. The whole process has many vulnerabilities from the start to the end; the fast fashion work model is worth a debate.
Fast fashion works on the model of ‘quick response-high returns.’ Fast fashion snaps the time required to manufacture a new design. The fast-fashion market produces a bulk of clothes daily, which means it compromises with the environment and labor corners. It harms the environment and the workers working in the industry as well.
A. ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS:
Fast-fashion brings in a large amount of pollution with it. Almost 60% of our fabrics are synthetic, which come from fossil fuels, such as petroleum. Data shows that fast fashion uses 342 million liters of petroleum oil per year. It indicates we are gradually exhausting our fossil fuel reserves. It is one of the scariest side-effects of this ever-large industry. It doesn’t stop here; water is a major raw material in the production of clothes. The textile industry exhausts as much as 4% of total freshwater on the earth, which equals almost 93 billion meter cubes of water per year(excluding the dyeing and washing usage). The fashion industry takes up 5.9 trillion liters of water each year to dye the clothes alone. The fancy t-shirt that you don is a product of 3200 liters of water. The list doesn’t end up here; water helps to irrigate cotton fields and other natural fibers. In return, the fashion industry disposes of the dump in the open lands, discharges polluted water in rivers and carbon into the atmosphere. The factory and farm set-up for textile production causes deforestation as well. So in no way, it’s doing good to the very root-source by which the fashion industry makes profits in billions- the environment.
Due to the extreme production rate and low durability, the clothes become trash within months. On average, an American purchases 59 garments a year to generate at least 80 pounds of textile wastage per year. Moreover, the synthetic fibers make it almost impossible to recycle the clothes, and the dumped ones are non-biodegradable.
In most of the countries, the water used for production stays untreated and pollutes the river; it harms aquatic life and the people near the river banks as well, causing liver problems.
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B. WORKING CONDITIONS:
There is no beauty in the finest clothes if it makes hunger and unhappiness.
FAST FASHION industry does every bit to cut the cost of the end product. The companies often employ child laborers who get negligible wages to survive. In the subcontinent region, the workers don’t get enough payment and do forced labor. It happens in most of the countries as well. Child labor, exploitation, and low pay scales are common scenarios in the flashy industry of fashion. It creates a huge difference between the profits this industry makes and how it pays to its ‘assets.’ The fabrics are often disease-ridden, and the laborers don’t get any security. The scenes behind the curtains of this profit-making industry is brutal to human life.
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SOLUTIONS – THE CONCLUSION
A. CONSUMER’S ROLE:- LESS CONSUMPTION
That’s only one t-shirt, said 8 billion people.
Seriously, we don’t need 60 garments a year. It just adorns our closet for years and then reaches out to dump yards. We must not buy more than five-to-ten garments a year. You can wear the same dress and good at the same time. A new look doesn’t change personality, or a human itself being presentable is enough. We can also go for a bit of expensive clothing as it is more durable and of high quality. Remember, quality is always greater than quantity. The new market parameters don’t justify it. We can wear them longer if a person wears a cloth for nine months, which means 30% of carbon footprints will reduce. Another way is to use second-hand clothes, sounds ugly right, but if a person uses two used clothes or recycled clothes a year, it will be equal to removing 500K vehicles for a year. Think about the change we can make.
The whole model of fast fashion depends upon consumer demands. It’s all up to us. If we head in the right way, then we can add more years to the life span of human life.
B. PRODUCER’S ROLE:-ECO-FRIENDLY FIBRES
Some fibers can help us reducing pollution.
a) Bamboo Viscose- The root source of Bamboo viscose is naturally regenerative and therefore considered eco-friendly.
b) Banana- The intermediate layer of the banana sheaths is used to make fabric. It blends with natural fibers like cotton as well.
c) Coir- It is the outer hairy part of the coconut, often used as a fuel. The fibers are double-spun to make more durable and lightweight.
d) Ramie- It is 8x more durable than cotton. It is sustainable fiber. Ramie can be grown as many as six times a year. It less popular, but it may gain popularity shortly.
e) Soy Silk- A biodegradable fiber that is an excellent receptive of natural dye. Therefore it deducts the extra usage of chemicals in making dyes.
f) Corn- The corn fiber is already snapping market areas with its compatibility to make sportswear, apparel, etc.
g) Hemp- One of the most biodegradable fabrics, it needs no pesticides, and it’s a fast-growing plant. It is a sustainable plant and has a wide variety of applications, and it is also UV-resistant.
C. GOVERNMENT’S ROLE:- CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT
Governments don’t intrude to take up necessary precautions to avoid environmental degradation in the fast fashion industry. It can keep eyes on the factories set-up near the river banks. Governments must regularly update the Environmental Certification and must check the used water gets cleaned before discharging into the river or somewhere else. A better management for the disposal and dumping of the used clothes and a law to control the excessive production of the clothes can come into place. The Governments must discuss this issue at international conferences for a better deal. The governments must encourage eco-friendly fibers, and they must ban harmful, non-biodegradable fabrics.
The governments should monitor the exploitation of workers in the fast-fashion.
Firstly and lastly, we all need to rethink and relearn the damage we are doing to the environment, from every aspect. The oil industry, agriculture, fashion industry ends up polluting the environment. Again, clothing is important, but sustainability is the way we can achieve both- good clothing and a healthy environment. “DO YOUR BIT TO SAVE A BIT OF THE EARTH.”