What is meant by fast fashion

Fast fashion is a business that offers (the perception of) fashionable clothes for low prices, contributing to a dizzying increase in the textile industry.

In this case, the word "fast" is not just used to describe the consumption of a single garment, but also the speed with which merchants are able to transport fashion from runways to shop windows.

Globally they are bought 80 billions of clothes a day, mainly produced in China and Bangladesh and purchased mainly in America.

What causes fast fashion

This industry provides jobs at least 40 millions of people around the world, of which the 90% it is found in low-middle-income countries per capita, which are massively exploited to keep the production of clothes cheap. The textile industry is second in the world for pollution produced and among the first for energy consumption and natural resources.

Most of the clothes made with cotton (one of the plants that requires the most water and pesticides to grow- Niinimäki et al. 2020 ) or polyester (petroleum derivative). The dyes used during production are often left to drain into local waters without treatment, dispersing heavy metals and harmful toxins for the fauna and the local population.

Fast fashion clothes often have an extremely short lifespan, quickly becoming waste, being disposed of as solid waste and accumulating in landfills. You get to 17 millions of kg per year in America alone.

What can the citizen do to limit it

The easiest and most effective method that a citizen can adopt to reduce their impact in the fast-fashion sector, and select resistant clothing and products from reliable sustainable brands. Even if the prices are higher, the duration of the item of clothing will mitigate the initial investment.

Choose clothes produced using sustainable fibers, that is, with a low impact on the environment and not produced through the exploitation of people. For example, bamboo and hemp fiber need less water and pesticides than cotton.

Another method can be to choose clothes produced using recycled fibers, offered for sale by numerous fast-fashion brands.

Inquire on the websites of the shops (or on site) about the company policies. To do this, very often just type the brand name on google followed by "sustainable" or "eco-sustainable". This allows you to choose the best brands and decide which clothes to buy in the store.

Sorting hundreds of tons of clothes in an abandoned factory for a social mission called “Clothing the Loop”. Photo by Francois Le Nguyen on Unsplash

Article by Marika Roma


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Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H., Perry, P., Rissanen, T., & Wilt, A. (2020). The environmental price of fast fashion. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1(4), 189-200.

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