Fast fashion harms clothing industry

December 9, 2020

A New Decade in Fashion

A fashion trend first starts on the catwalk. A company leader will then see something they like from modeled clothing and incorporate it into designs for their company. They will take certain pieces such as the skirt the model was wearing or they can take something small, like the pattern or art on the clothing, these ideas have now been chosen to become the next trend. From then on it is campaigned, modeled, and posted everywhere, making it unavoidable. They show people the new trend they should follow and soon everyone does. But what they do not show you are the secrets of catastrophe those new clothes are covering up.

Process from Trend to Fast Fashion

Looking at the process, there are many ways to start off a trend. According to Beauty & Fashion, Fashion trends now start and evolve through five keyways: from the runway, from street style, through celebrities, through fashion bloggers, and through the different fashion capitals of the world.

Denise Ervin, fin workroom manager at the Fashion Arts Collective in Omaha, Neb., knows designers need trends to become relevant. “You have to be aware of trends, what’s going on in society,” Ervin said. These designers are aware of the trends and follow them to have a successful business, but this only leads to fast fashion.

Social media also plays a key role in influencing people about what to buy. “Social media has brought fast fashion to the forefront,” Ervin said.

Once trends are out and have started companies race to produce as many items as possible before the trend is over, leading to overproduction and fast fashion. Fast fashion’s goal is to produce articles of clothing quickly that are cost-efficient, as stated by Investopedia. This also means they use cheap fabric. They know these products are being bought for the sole purpose of being bought, and will only be worn a few times, so they use cheap fabric.

Ervin, however, has different hopes for the future. “I hope that we go to a quality perspective rather than a quantity perspective,” Ervin said.

Why do Trends Become Fast Fashion?

Society influences people, giving them a need to fit in, that starts at a youthful age. Children are not thinking about fitting in but when it comes to middle schoolers, high schoolers, and even young adults they want to fit in.

Being in business, Ervin knows a thing or two. “Businesses of course have to have their target market,” Ervin said, “You have to think of who you’re designing for.” So, businesses have a target and what better target than insecure people with a will to fit in. They make ads that trick them into thinking they need the latest trend.

“Apparel and clothing is really a phycological thing… lots of phycology goes into clothing,” Ervin said.

According to Group Picket, millennials are the largest group of consumers. These groups consume and consume when the latest trends come along. Businesses must keep up with current trends and to do so they must produce fast. This forces them to use substandard quality fabrics and substandard quality design. Fast fashion is just that, clothes made cheap and sold for cheap to soon be given up to charity or the dump. The cycle is never ending.

How the Process of Making Clothes Effects the Environment

The process of making clothes alone causes many problems for the environment. There are three main drivers, as claimed by Earth.org, dyeing and finishing (36 percent,) yarn preparation (28 percent) and fiber production (15 percent). According to the same report fiber production has the largest impact on freshwater withdrawal and ecosystem quality due to cotton cultivation. Why does the dyeing process have the largest impact than any other step of production? Business Insider found because leftover water from the dyeing process is dumped into ditches, streams and rivers, making it the world’s second largest polluter of water. Because of this, brands turn to synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and acrylic, fabrics that take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

Aside from wasting all that water it also damages it, too. Earth.org states an estimated 35 percent of all micro-plastics come from laundering of synthetic textiles like polyester. These micro-plastics sit in the ocean killing important marine life.

A big trend this year has become leather but what people are unaware of is the production of leather that requires enormous amounts of feed, land, water and fossil fuels to raise the animals needed.

There has also been an upcoming trend in silk but that is more sustainable. According to Earth.org, more sustainable fabrics that can be used in clothing include wild silk, organic cotton, linen, hemp and lyocell.

Aside from just fabric and fibers each production step has an environmental impact due to water, material, chemical and energy use, according to Nature.com.

The Facts You Need to Know

Fast fashion is killing the environment, there is no doubt and no excuse.

    1. The environmental impacts of fast fashion include the depletion of non-renewable sources, emission of greenhouse gases and the use of massive amounts of water and energy. (Earth.org)
    2. The fashion industry is the second largest consumer industry of water, requiring about 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt and 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. (Earth.org)
    3. Washing clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. (Earth.org)
    4. The world consumes around 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, 400 percent more than the consumption twenty years ago. (Earth.org)
    5. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. (Earth.org)
    6. On Average, people bought 60 percent more garments in 2014 than they did in 200. (Business Insider)
    7. Impacts from the fashion industry include over 92 million tons of waste produced per year and 79 trillion liters of water consumed. (Nature.com)
    8. The production of polyester textiles alone emits about 706 million tons of greenhouse gases a year.” (Vox.com)
    9. 93 percent of brands surveyed by the Fashion Checker aren’t paying garment workers a living wage. (Good on You)
    10. More than $500 billion (about $1,500 per person in the US) of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and lack of recycling. (Good on You)

What’s Happening Now and What’s to Come?

Every decade has its own trends. But this decade has come to a new one, or rather the end of an old one.

Ervin has been in the fashion industry for over 40 years and for the first time she has seen something new. “I think there’s going to be a change,” Ervin said referring to fast fashion. Ervin had her own take for the year.

“Everything goes,” she said. She refers to Gucci and how their models have everything going on, but she also refers “everything goes” to thrifting.

Thrifting has become a new trend, forcing creativity in outfits being worn. Ervin knows thrifting means different, unique pieces people are not used to.

“There is going to be a shift in the way we dress,” Ervin said.

Thrifting is a new way to find creative pieces. This also forces people to style items differently. When thrifting there is still a way to follow trends, so people can still fit in, they will just be doing it sustainably. Thrifting will also inspire colorful and detailed patterns in company designs. Other companies might also realize people thrift because it is sustainable, this could inspire designing with zero waste.

Upcycling has also become a new trend. People are now transforming their old clothes into new ones instead of throwing them away.

Ervin works with many young designers, teaching and mentoring. “I think those young designers are even more aware than I am… they will go out being aware and hopefully do something about it,” Ervin said.

For the young designers out there Ervins advice is to “have a point of view.”

“Every design needs a focus; you have to stay true to what your focus is… become aware of who you are and what you want to say as a designer.”

People could later turn away from trends and fast fashion because those clothes do not have a point of view. Ervin also knows the key elements to becoming a good designer. “You do not have to follow trends to be a good designer, you just have to find who you are and express it.”

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