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6 reasons to avoid fast-fashion

In this new blog entry, we will give you 6 reasons why it's better to steer clear from fast-fashion ..... and thus why vintage is a pretty good solution when it comes to shopping for new clothes!

But, WAIT, what is fast-fashion exactly?

Fast-fashion is a segment of the fashion industry that captures fashion trends emerging from the catwalk and/or from celebrity/influencer culture at a rather rapid pace. It is based on a quick renewal of collections (every other week on average) and cheap prices.

From a consumer perspective, it's a fun and effective way to purchase affordable and trendy clothes, all year round, whether for a particular occasion or not.
It's because of this fundamental aspect that fast-fashion has been extremely popular these past years.

But in reality, the drawbacks are gargantuan.
For our planet, the fashion workers and the consumers themselves.

1. Fast-fashion abuses its workers and is inherently racist

Fast-fashion is built upon the exploitation of people of color and women. According to NGO Clean Clothes, 80% of garment workers worldwide are women.
Third-party garment factories where they work are usually located in the world's poorest countries (Bangladesh, Mauritius, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Philippines).
The production model put in place by big fast-fashion retailers participates in the erosion of their rights.

They suffer poor working conditions (no fresh air, no breaks, uncomfortable positions while working, mediocre wage, verbal and/or sexual harrassement...), excessive work hours (14 hours on average) and are prohibited to unionize.
Regularly, the minimum working age enforced in one country is violated, leading to child labour

Even when based in western countries, where law enforcement is said to be stricter, exploitation still occurs. 
Ultra-fashion retailer Boohoo has been accused in 2020 of modern slavery in its Leicester, UK factories, leading to a massive backlash; and online fashion retailer Asos has been accused of putting many of its workers at risk in the midst of Covid-19 quarantine, by not granting them protection masks and social distanciation. 

2. Fast-fashion modifies our behavioral pattern

Fast fashion distorts our sense of value and it's addictive.
We become less attached to our belongings and associate "new" with "best" and "desirability".

According to Ellen MacArthur Foundation report "A new textiles economy: redesigning fashion's future",the average consumer purchased 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but garments are only being used half as long (one year). Clothes are worn on average 5 times before being discarded or forgotten in our wardrobes.

And according to Greenpeace, here are the reasons why garments are displaced:
  • 64% I don't like it any more.
  • 40% Is no longer in fashion/my personal style.
  • 31% Need room for new clothes.
  • 10% Only bought it for a special occasion.

While 20% of clothing are never worn.

We no longer buy out of real necessity but out of boredom/FearOfMissingOut/A sense of reward.
We found it normal to have items that cost less than a meal, even though the material has been harvested in A country, manufactured in B country and shipped from C country.

Some big retailers trick you into thinking that their product is better quality by associating their name with high fashion designers during capsule collections (H&M); or by having their locations not far from luxury/high end stores in big cities (Zara).

3. Fast-fashion kills our personal style

Everybody is dressing the same, and most of the time according to the fast-fashion retailer guidelines.

Haven't you noticed that in store, everything is displayed by look.
You have the coat/shoes/pants/top, all adjacent to one an other. You don't have to think about what could go with that one piece. It has already been decided for you. And because it's cheap you may totally take the whole look.

By mimicking we're slowly loosing our own sense of style. We're no longer experimenting with fashion.


4. Fast-fashion IS expensive

We often hear that fast-fashion is not expensive. Of course, if we only focus on one piece, it's not.
But because it's highly addictive, on the long run it gets expensive.

Fast-fashion is based upon impulsive purchase (SEE, WANT, BUY; you need to make it quick because there is no guarantee that it will be available in the next couple days).

It is also based on what some call "the hamster mindset". You stock up on clothes because they are cute and you might wear them some day. Truth is, we all know what that "some day means"...

Before, brands used to have 4 collections (one for each season, depending on where you live). Nowadays it's more 32+ collections per year. And they make you feel that if you don't keep up, you're missing something.
By buying that much clothes that will get torn after 3 to 4 washes, you get the math: it is expensive. 

This is why vintage garment, (= more than 20 years of age) is the best bet when it comes to shopping for quality.

5. Fast-fashion steal ideas from independent designers and creative high-end fashion houses

You will find lots of rip-offs in their stores or on their online shops.
Fast-fashion retailers are notoriously known for imitating pieces that work well in luxury houses, justifying it by saying they allow their customers to access a little bit of that world.

They also shamelessly and regularly appropriate to themselves the work of independent creatives that don't have the legal army to strike back or don't get the media coverage others may get in such a case.

6. Fast-fashion is harmful to the planet

One of the most infamous reasons as to why we should steer clear from fast-fashion. The planet; and the damages it causes to it and by extension to all living beings.

The numbers are catastrophic:

  • Fast-fashion is said to be the second largest polluting industry in the world, behind the oil industry (through growing crop, sourcing, manufacturing, shipping).
  • 30% of substances used in the clothing manufacturing process are harmful to the body  (Ellen MacArthur Foundation report "A new textiles economy: redesigning fashion's future").
  • A new pair of jeans takes about 7,000 litres of water to produce. That's about the amount of water we drink over the course of 6,5 years.
  • The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every secondwhere it releases toxins into the soil (Ellen MacArthur Foundation report "A new textiles economy: redesigning fashion's future").
  • 90% of the cotton it uses is genetically modified (The Institute for Sustainable Communication).
  • 20% of industrial water pollution comes from the treating and dyeing of textiles (World Resource Institute).

As much as these 6 reasons are devastating, the list is unfortunately not exhaustive.
This is why we should avoid fast-fashion whenever possible, and turn to second-hand, vintage and ethical fashion, and/or renting instead.

As fashion lovers it is our duty, through our choices, to make that industry beautiful again.


For more on the subject:

Watch "The true cost" documentary by Andrew Morgan,
Read Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas,
Keep yourself informed via The Fashion Sustainable Forum website.

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