This post is long overdue. I’ve had it half-finished in my drafts for a very long time now. I think that’s because I didn’t know where to start or that I felt as though I couldn’t contribute to the conversation around fast fashion. But the reality is, this discussion needs to happen.
I want to mention that this post has personal assumptions and ideas, as well as factual information.
Let’s talk: fast fashion
So, what is fast fashion?
The fast fashion industry is based on capitalist consumerist values, producing cheaply made clothing and garments for a high-profit margin. Clothing quality is poor and made with unsustainable materials that are grown, manufactures, and printed overseas by sweatshops and mass producers that have inhumane working conditions with next to nothing pay. These trends are produced at a rate that is faster than the garment’s lifecycle, meaning that the clothes you purchase one month will not be ‘in fashion’ the next. They’re made to fall apart, lose colouration and disintegrate as the next trend comes around.
This feeds into the idea that we’ve learnt our whole lives: that brand new is better and being on-trend is essential. Let me tell you now this is a lie. Fast fashion has trapped us in a continuous consumerist loop that feels impossible to escape.
Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed.Good On You
Some common fast fashion brands found in Australia are Dotti, Tempt, H&M, Cotton On, Thrills, Ally, Supreme, Afends, Supre, Kmart, Target, Jay Jays, Myer, Nike, Adidas, Dangerfield, Princess Polly, Boohoo, Ghanda, SHEIN However, the list goes on and on and on.
Some of these brands have conscious collections and can vary from being made out of 100% recycled materials to still using virgin materials (defeating the purpose). As a consumer, you’ll feel better purchasing from a conscious collection because you think you’re helping the planet.
While this is a step forward, these collections are taking our attention away from other aspects that make clothing ‘conscious’. Quite often these collections aren’t produced sustainably. Brands like H&M and Afends utilise greenwashing to help sell their clothes.
Your personal bar
The best way to describe your personal bar is it’s a concept The best way to describe your personal bar is it’s a concept where you have to decide the standard in which you hold fast fashion companies responsible. You want to set your bar as high as possible. To begin with, you can start it lower, and as you educate yourself, your bar should increase.
For example, you could begin by purchasing from brands ranking higher on the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report. However, from my understanding, this report focuses more on transparency (and there is more to sustainable fashion than this). This is a good place to start, but once again, you need to be wary of greenwashing. Zara received an A, and H&M received a B+, but then when you look at their rating on Good On You, they both received ‘it’s a start‘ which isn’t good enough.
While transparency is important, it doesn’t make a brand ethical. They could be transparent, but use sweatshops to make their clothes (like H&M and many other fast fashion brands).
Our personal bar is how we can hold companies accountable. Set your bar high and educate yourself. And if you’re unsure, don’t purchase from them.
Don’t settle for companies aiming to do better and saying they’re trying. Don’t fall let them let you fall into the trap of greenwashing.
So, what’s greenwashing?
Greenwashing can best be defined as when a company, government, brand, corporation creates a sustainability narrative to portray that they are environmentally friendly/responsible. Companies are wanting you to believe that they’re a sustainable or ethical brand – when they’re not.
When you’re trying to determine whether a brand is greenwashing or not, look for vague information and words like ‘aim’. Are they sharing information in detail? Are they descriptively explaining how? If you’re unsure, this is where Good On You is great. I’d also recommend Maggies’s (@yemagz) greenwashing highlight on Instagram for a place to start.
But why does any of this matter?
Global clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, with garments on average being worn less and discarded quicker than ever before . Eighty billion pieces of clothing are consumed globally every year, which is 400% more than what we were consuming twenty years ago .
“We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items you’re overseas. There are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in the West do. They are some of the lowest-paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women.”The True Cost 
Oxfam found that nine out of ten workers interviewed in Bangladesh can’t afford to feed themselves and their families . Even if it’s Australian, UK, USA, or New Zealand made, it doesn’t mean it’s fair trade either. Many garment workers in the western world are exploited too . Only 9% of Australian fashion brands pay their workers a living wage . Paying a living wage to garment workers would only add 1% on average to the retail price of a piece of clothing .
Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester, which is the most common fibre in our clothes. However, it takes more than 200 years to decompose . It also takes 20,000 litres to produce one kilogram of cotton, which is equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans .
If we keep our current trend, the number of plastic microfibres entering the ocean between 2015 and 2050 could accumulate to an excess of twenty-two million tonnes which is about two-thirds of the plastic-based fibres currently used to produce garments annually .
I’ve decided to split this post into two. So, this is the end of part one with part two coming next Thursday. Once it’s published, I’ll link it here. It will focus on the lifecycle of your typical garments and include some ways to get started into your slow fashion journey. And on that note, I also have a Let’s Talk: Slow Fashion post coming too.
The best way to combat fast fashion is by changing your habits. Set your personal bar and be the change.
And, if you’re interested in taking other sustainable steps, take a look at my Sustainable & Slow Living category. Over the next few months, I’ll solely be focusing on sustainable and ethical content.