Fast Fashion


Md Ratul, Contributor

What is Fast fashion? Fast fashion is the mass production of garments which keep up with modern trends. Production of garments can only take up to 2 weeks, before being sold in stores. Fast fashion has become one of the most profitable industries. The clothes have a low-cost and are mass-produced, therefore, they are popular with consumers. Some of the biggest companies involved in fast fashion include H&M, Zara, and Fashion Nova. The industry mostly produces their products in developing countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and China. The sector employs people in sweatshops and factories where people are used to making garments for low wages and in poor working conditions. 

The Fast Fashion industry continues to be one of the biggest causes of environmental disasters. The United Nations estimates the sector is responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions, second to only the oil industry. Clothes produced by corporations like H&M are not made to last so, many people throw out clothes from H&M and Zara within a year. America also has an overconsumption issue; New York City alone throws more garments than the European Union. For comparison, the European Union has a population of 447.8 million people, while New York City has only 8.3 million people. Garments brought to landfills represent 5% of global landfills. Garments produced from the fast fashion industry are non-biodegradable. They cannot be broken down by living organisms.  

The industry is a major water consumer. About 40% of garments are made of cotton. Cotton requires 20,000 liters of water per 1kg of cotton. One t-shirt takes up to 2,720 liters. A pair of jeans that 10,000 liters of water. On average, men need 3.7 liters of water per day, while a women on average need 2.7 liters of water. The industry is consuming water like it’s nothing. Water is a precious resource that must be preserved. Global freshwater supply is decreasing. For example, India has 100 million people who don’t have access to drinking water every day. 85% of the water used to grow cotton in India can supply the whole population’s daily needs. The industry wastes hundreds of millions of liters of water every year to produce clothes. 

Rivers have become polluted from all the waste dumped in them. The release of toxic chemicals has devastating impacts on the environment. In developing countries, these waterways are essential to people’s life, because they provide them with water to drink and bathe in. Water sources are becoming dumping grounds for garment factories. In Uzbekistan, the world’s 6th largest cotton producer, the rivers are so contaminated that they started to dry up. Many surrounding communities on the rivers have lost their livelihood. 

Many companies are funding studies/projects focused on making the business cleaner. Nike has started to manufacture shoes made of plastic. H&M and other retailers have been working on decreasing their carbon footprint. H&M has created incentives if people recycle their clothes. For a bag of garments, you can get 15% off your next purchase. Advancements in technology have spurred new methods of producing fabrics and dye. H&M is using artificial intelligence to help cut waste. Companies are using recent advances in technology to create environmentally conscious products. 

How can you be environmentally conscious when buying clothes? Buying products for longevity goes a long way. Some companies that produce clothes made to last include are: Patagonia, Everlane, Pact, Reformation, and many more. Buying products environmentally is not only helpful to just the environment. Reformation, for example, produces clothes ethically. They do not employ people who work in sweatshops. Buying clothes from environmentally conscious brands is ethical and reduces your carbon footprint.