Did you know that 42 percent of brands exaggerate their sustainability claims? Sustainable fashion is a term that is been thrown around a lot lately, with more and more fashion companies claiming to be sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly. Hearing or seeing this in relation to a product makes us feel like we are doing a good thing for the planet by buying it. But we need to ask, is that company really sustainable? Or is it just one of their marketing techniques to ensure we buy?
To answer this, we first need to be able to identify the fashion that we don’t want to support; the fashion that is not only bad for the environment, but is also bad for us as humans, whether it be the worker or consumer. This type of fashion is known today as fast fashion.
But what is fast fashion and why is it bad?
Our team here at Panamuna pride ourselves on being a truly sustainable fashion company that prioritises environmentally and ethically produced clothing. We did the research, we know how harmful fast fashion is, so we want you to understand it too so you can also create change with your wardrobe!
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to take advantage of trends. The idea of fast fashion is to get the newest styles on the market as fast as possible, so shoppers can buy them while they are still at the height of their popularity.
Sadly, a lot of these items are discarded after a few wears, causing a toxic system of overproduction and consumption, that has made fashion one of the world's largest polluters.
Fast fashion has huge negative impacts for the environment, animals, and humans.
On the planet
Fast fashion's impact on the planet is huge! Companies are under great pressure to reduce costs and speed up production, which put the environment under even more stress. The use of cheap, toxic textile dyes makes the fast fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally (after agriculture). Cheap textiles also shred microfibres, which add to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans.
On the workers
There is also a human cost to the fast fashion industry. Clothes makers and garment workers are often made to work in dangerous environments, for low wages and a lack of basic human rights. Farmers are also often forced to work with toxic chemicals and brutal practices that have detrimental impacts on their physical and mental health.
On the animals
When toxic dyes and microfibres are released into the environment, they are commonly consumed by animals, both on land and in the ocean. This is not only a death sentence for the animal who consumes the microfibres itself, it also moves though the food chain, having devastating effects on other animals. Furthermore, when animal products such as leather, fur, and even wool are used in fashion directly, animal welfare is put at risk.
On the consumer
Fast fashion can also impact consumers themselves, creating an environment and pressure to participate in a "throw-away" culture because of both the built-in obsolescence of the products and the speed at which trends emerge. Fast fashion makes the consumer believe that we need to shop more, and that we need to stay on top of the trends, creating a constant feeling of dissatisfaction. Fast fashion has also been criticised on intellectual property grounds, with some small designers alleging that retailers have illegally mass-produced their designs.
However, it isn’t just enough for us to understand why fast fashion is bad, we really need to know how to spot it. Unfortunately, as “sustainable” is now a popular marketing technique, both large and small fashion companies will market themselves as sustainable or ethical purely to push sales.
Therefore, it comes down to you, the consumer, to be aware and understand how to spot a true sustainable company from a company that is using green washing to promote their fast fashion.
How to spot fast fashion?
Here are some key factors that are common to fast fashion brands, that will help you identify them so you can avoid purchasing their pieces:
- Their collection has heaps of different styles, that all keep up with the latest "trend”
o This puts pressure on individuals to keep buying the new styles, and potentially only wearing some clothes a handful of times
- Short turn-around time between trends
o Are they coming out with new styles often? Making what you just bought “out of style?”
- Offshore manufacturing (where labour is cheapest)
o This is a big one that, unfortunately, many smaller companies are involved in, and will also require you to do a bit of research. You need to ask where they are getting their garments made and how much they are paying their workers. They might claim their workers overseas are paid, but are they really?
- Limited quantity of garments
o This supports rushed purchases from the consumer, which results in buying clothes that might not get worn for long.
- Cheap, low-quality materials
o Materials like polyester cause clothing to degrade, sometimes even after only a few wears.
What can you do?
We have so much power as individuals to make changes to the fashion industry by being mindful of what clothes we spend our money on (or not).
Here are just some ways you, as the consumer, can create change with your wardrobe;
- Use what you already have.
- Buy less, and only what you really love!
- Buy good quality clothes that will actually last.
- Really research fashion companies (big and small) to check they are truly ethical and sustainable.
- Responsibly recycle your clothing at the end of its life.