by Elisa Thelvarik


https://anchor.fm/etherealism/episodes/Unmasking-Fast-Fashion-e130jsq

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   Fast fashion is a term used to describe mass-markets that utilize cheap and fast clothing manufacturing to create rapid fashion trends. It is characterized by incredibly low prices for consumers and trendy designs that go out of style almost immediately. This perpetuates a high turnover rate of clothing that is thrown away in a noticeably fleeting amount of time. Even though countries like China and the United States are blamed solely for fast fashion, every country contributes to this wicked problem.

 Fast fashion and the issue of sustainability has always been a major concern and point of interest for me. I find myself falling into the trap of buying the cheapest clothing without thinking of the ethical and environmental implications of my choices. As a consumer, it is increasingly important to be aware of one’s purchasing power and voice to change industries. I picked this topic to bring this wicked problem back to light. This topic also connects to topics I am currently studying in college, so this article felt like a perfect way to express my passion for sustainability.

  One issue that is not being addressed by those with the power to make a change is the treatment of garment industry workers. Many workers are being put in dangerous, unsafe work conditions and paid less than a decent wage for their labor. This issue should be a top priority for governments worldwide. The clothing industry is a massive contributor to economies everywhere. For instance, ****the garment industry in Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing sectors, with it increasing the country’s GDP from 3% in 1991 to 15% in 2014 ([Alam et al., 2017](<https://doi-org.libproxy.lib.csusb.edu/10.1080/13547860.2017.1292768>))**.** According to a 2018 report, the U.S. Department of Labor states that 77 countries worldwide are believed to produce goods through child labor and forced labor. The International Labour Organization reports that 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, and about 25 million people were forced into labor in 2016. Private sectors of manufacturing, including the clothing industry, exploit human beings for profit. Ending this issue would require several factors such as economics, social, cultural, and legal concerns to be considered by authoritative global figures.

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  Another issue that is often addressed by the public, but not by authoritative figures, is the environmental consequences of fast fashion. According to [Bick et al. (2018)](<https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0433-7>), “85% of the clothing Americans consume, nearly 3.8 billion pounds annually, is sent to landfills as solid waste, amounting to nearly 80 pounds per American per year.” In 2015, more than sixteen million tons of textile waste was generated in the USA, but only 15.28% were recycled ([Shirvanimoghaddam et al., 2020](<https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137317>)). Garment waste is not the only problem created by fast fashion. The textile industry has been one of the main contributors to water pollution all over the world, causing more than 20% of the registered levels of water pollution in countries like Turkey, Indonesia and China (among the G20 group of countries) and also in Romania and Bulgaria (in the Eastern European area), with even more than 44% in Macedonia ([Paraschiv, Tudor, & Petrariu, 2015](<http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su7021280>)). Even though many people are consciously aware of the situation, government figures have not taken enough steps to fix the issue.

 Even though it has been brought up in the past, one aspect of the wicked problem of fast fashion is the nature of fashion consumerism. In this age of consumerism, low prices incentivize consumers to buy more often. Nearly 90% of consumers purchase up to 40 items of new clothing each year, and almost half a million households send most of the unwanted clothing to landfills ([Page & Welden, 2018](<https://www.thewi.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/506799/In-a-Spin-Report-2018.pdf>)). Constantly buying clothes is only making the problem worse. By continuing the existence of “hot trends” that end in a matter of months, consumers are perpetuating the systemic manufacturing of fast fashion. Fast fashion is geared towards young people, especially women, but even the most ethically aware individual is affected ([Horton, 2018](<https://doi.org/10.1080/08164649.2019.1567255>)).

 To alleviate fast fashion, countries must face the problem head-on starting from government action. Governments have remained silent and objective towards the issue of fast fashion, which has caused the mistreatment of millions and the degradation of the earth. Countries must come together and make a plan to limit the amount of production from industries as well as monitor them. [Lehmann et al](<http://media-publications.bcg.com/france/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry2019.pdf>)., in their 2019 report, stated that “to pave the way for effective policy, governments and businesses need to work together” and that “policymakers need to be clear on what the role of governments should be. Businesses should define its commitment to change.” Without the cooperation of both businesses and governments, fast fashion will continue. Companies and big brands should also be more open about their sustainability progress. This not only spreads awareness against fast fashion but improves brand credibility.

 A significant change also needs to arise from consumers as well. Consumers have dissociated fashion choices from the adverse events happening behind-the-scenes. Government action is necessary to address the issue and spread awareness, but consumer mindsets also need to be changed. Consumers are used to low priced items of clothing. According to [McNeill and Moore’s 2015 study](<https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12169>), the majority of participants were aware of the impact of fast fashion and clothing consumption on the environment and related social issues, such as labor practices in manufacturing countries, but did not consider these issues in relation to their own fashion consumption. There is clearly a disconnect or distance between what they purchase and the effects of that purchase. For the entire world to consciously think about their clothing, there needs to be a massive societal modification of the fashion industry from fast fashion to slow fashion. Runways, magazines, and store windows must display environmentally friendly trends. Brands should also highlight sustainability and ethical business practices so consumers can keep them accountable.

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