Did you know that fast fashion features 52 micro-seasons per year? That alludes to new styles and trends being released every single week! Major fashion chains like Forever21, H&M, and Zara feature ‘new, trendy, and popular’ garments on the weekly. How crazy is that?! Itʻs a rat race for the bottom line, profit.
The result is a fast-paced production line, pumping out high volumes at a low margin. The end product is low quality, cheap garments. Eventually 80% end up being thrown away. According to the EPA,11.2 million tons of textile ended up in the landfill in 2017. The mass production behind this affair is colossal and has degradative ecological and social impacts.
As consumers we rarely think of the life cycle a garment has been through before we cross paths with it at the store. Behind the scenes are realistic environmental and social impacts of the industry. It has the largest labor compared to any other industry in the world. The vicious cycle is relentless to production line workers, communities, and consumers. To understand the full scope of it let's start from the beginning.
Clothing was primarily being made in the USA until the 1970ʻs, when companies began outsourcing labor to developing countries in order to cut production costs. This has resulted in poor working conditions, low wages, and extremely long hours to keep up with consumer demand. As consumer demand continues to rise, the demand for resources, and labor also rise.
Cotton is the number one fiber being used in textile production. The largest cotton patch in the world rests on the plains of Texas, and covers millions of millions of acres. The majority of those cotton crops are genetically-modified. Meaning that it is continuously sprayed with glyphosate. Glyphosate or commonly known as Roundup, is proven to cause cancer, birth defects, and intellectual disability. Cotton is also grown in developing countries, such as India, where children are constantly born with defects due to the high level of toxicity in their bodies from glyphosate.
Fast fashion factories also use many chemicals in the dying process, and can end up being dumped in nearby waterways, resulting in polluted and contaminated water. These chemicals also release toxic fumes that can linger in factories, where workers are constantly exposed. Some chemicals linger and remain in the garments, which then result in consumer being potentially being exposed to harmful substances that are absorbed through the skin.
Truthfully, this can all seem like doom and gloom, but there is a guiding light. Once weʻre aware of the problem, we can make a difference. Slow fashion, minimalism, and capsule wardrobes are on the rise. If youʻd like to learn more about slow fashion and tips to shopping sustainably please see our blog post titled "Sustainable Fashion, On the Rise".
The True Cost Documentary