Updated: Apr 25
As a teenager, I was fashion obsessed. I spent hours watching fashion TV, went to runway shows and knew the names of top models and fashion designers. I carefully chose my outfits for different events. As I explored my style, my outfits were inspired by rock music, animals, and local crafts. The environmental impact of my outfits or of fast fashion weren’t even on my mind - most people still don’t consider it.
Fast fashion is fashion that moves quickly from the runway to the consumer - and then to a landfill. Some stores change their entire inventory as often as every two weeks. The amount of resources used to make these kinds of cheap clothes is staggering.
To produce textiles cotton needs to be sourced or synthetic fibres created. Then the fabric must be dyed and printed. The dying, washing, ironing, cutting, and sewing of clothes is a labour and resource-intensive process. The constant production of the fast fashion industry is not only harmful to the environment, it is also harmful to the people who work in it.
In countries like India or Bangladesh, where most textiles are created, water pollution is a major issue. Pure water is needed to dye clothes certain colours. Synthetic fibres like polyester are particularly difficult to dye. Sometimes this dirty, dye-filled water is left untreated and ends up in rivers and lakes, causing water pollution. Producing clothes can also have a negative impact on the health of those making them. The blue dust created when making your favourite blue jeans, especially when workers use sandblasting to make jeans look worn, is an irritant to the lungs. It can cause silicosis, a deadly lung disease that has already been associated with the deaths of garment workers.
But it’s not all bad news, the fashion industry is beginning to change its practices. Consumers are putting pressure on brands to be more transparent with their supply chains, from sourcing their materials ethically, to providing better working conditions. This matters because fashion is one of the most important industries in the global economy. Let us support brands that only produce environmentally-conscious clothing.