Fast fashion under indictment? Nothing to be surprised about, because the ultra-decade-old trend that has revolutionized the way we buy clothing (and especially how it is made) has reached the tipping point, with the general public finally beginning to question about the actual sustainability of this practice.
The Fast Fashion is everywhere, but fortunately many brands, particularly those with the most media exposure, have introduced serious digital transition plans, giving themselves clear goals and timeframes to achieve them. And this could significantly change things.
With Fast Fashion refers to the creation of garments now outside the cycle of the two fashion seasons, usually made at low cost, to allow everyone to buy more wardrobe over the course of the year. A trend that has been espoused by many major brands, but at the same time has an huge impact on the environment.
In fact, the fashion industry remains one of the most polluting in the world, both because of the significant amount of waste produced and because of the use of many chemicals during production and washing. Not to mention also the exploitation, generally in developing countries, of labor and workers. And the consumption of water. A world of fashion hidden from the eyes of most, but which we will learn about today.
Fast Fashion: fashion all year round
The basic idea will have seemed ingenious to the marketing offices: year-round, continuous production of low-cost clothing, to change what was the paradigm of the older generations, which was to buy clothes basically twice a year, following macro-seasons. Clothes for everyone, available all the time and at low cost: an idea that may have seemed successful to many but instead has made one of the harshest industries on the environment, that of fashion and clothing, even more polluting. The effects of fast fashion are there for all to see today: very low-cost production in countries where labor is cheap and exploited for a few dollars a day. Chemicals poured directly into rivers, lakes and seas, with dyes and washing active ingredients that have now destroyed entire ecosystems. Not to mention thehuge amount of clothes to be disposed of, either because they are bought in excess or because they are not durable due to the low quality with which they are made. The perfect recipe for a disaster that is finally, today, before everyone's eyes and that is forcing several brands to backtrack and break away from these logics.
Fast Fashion as Pollution
Perhaps the most pressing issue, at least in proportion, is that of pollution. The textile industry resorts to the massive use of polluting products, from chlorine to active ingredients used in washing, as color fixatives, or even to achieve certain effects. An industry that has paid the price for its enormous expansion to the environment, moving from time to time to countries where the controls are less and less and where one can often pollute with impunity. With damage to the environment that has long been beyond the point of no return, to the point that it has raised protests even from governments that had always been complacent with the industry.
Transportation, with bulky packages crisscrossing the globe, also contributes to this picture very bleak and one that needs everyone's commitment today to be improved. Ships bringing garments from the far east to the west, consuming fuel for garments that, on balance, we would not even need. As for the use of harmful chemicals, the textile industry has tried to respond by resorting to a new generation of products, which are more biodegradable and choose natural active ingredients, but which naturally raise costs and therefore operate contrary to the mantra of Fast Fashion.
Exploitation: dangerous working conditions and stories no one wants to read
Also with regard to the human component of this specific industry and this specific way of creating garments we are at year zero. Production has long since moved to emerging countries where labor costs are low, where workers can be exploited, and where they cannot demand safe working conditions. The result is several disasters, with sometimes deadly consequences, that have occurred in countries where production is most concentrated, such as India, but also Bangladesh e Pakistan.
And there will be much more work to be done on this. The public is increasingly attentive to these issues, and if the Fast Fashion does not change its paradigms it may well cease to exist. All this while in the European Union is beginning to discuss a cap on imports of clothes from certain countries, with the aim of containing this phenomenon. We as consumers can do our part and begin to choose more conscientiously the products we will wear, buy even used clothing, revive our clothes still in good condition, remembering that even the care and washing phase can impact up to 25% of CO2 emissions.
With small everyday gestures, we can make big revolutions.