It’s time we said no to fast fashion. Yes, that bargain jumper from H&M might seem alluring, but there’s a reason it seems such a bargain – it is likely to come at the cost of the labour force who produced it and the damage to the planet that it causes. We’re probably all guilty of buying into fast fashion on one occasion or another, but ‘greenwashing’ has gone on for far too long. Brands such as Primark, Boohoo, ASOS and H&M all claim their ‘conscious’ and ‘eco’ ranges are planet friendly, but how sustainable really is this clothing?
H&M and ASOS say they produce their material from circulose, which comes from FSC-certified wood and recycled cotton jeans. Recycled material is certainly better than non-recycled, but ultimately any fast fashion we buy surely cannot be sustainable. In reality, according to Fashion Revolution, less than 1% of materials used to create clothing is actually recycled into new clothing. The planet cannot sustain the rate that brands such as ASOS and H&M churn out clothing. We are producing 80 billion items of clothing each year, 400% more than 20 years ago.
With this constant stream of fashion, it’s estimated that items of clothing are thrown out only five weeks after they’re bought. On average, the UK sends a staggering £140 million worth of clothing into landfill each year. Ultimately, many feel that these brands do not have good intentions when producing eco ranges and are instead jumping on the ‘save the planet’ bandwagon to improve PR, consequently capitalising off the sustainable movement.
Not only is the rate that these companies produce clothing unsustainable, but the process of making the clothing is widely believed to be unethical. Fast fashion has pushed companies to find increasingly cheap sources of labour from countries where garment and textile production exists. Sofie Ovaa, the Global Campaign Coordinator of Stop Child Labour has stated that, ‘’There are many girls in countries like India and Bangladesh who are willing to work for very low prices and are easily brought into these industries under false promises of earning decent wages.’’
The workers producing clothing in the fashion industry are extremely vulnerable: with no union to help them bargain better working conditions, they are without a voice and consequently easily exploited. It is difficult for companies to control their production, making it very possible for them to be employing cheap labour without consumers or brands ever knowing. What is the cost of the fast fashion clothes we buy? Whilst the cost for us may be small, the human cost is great. Because ultimately if we’re not paying for it, who is?
It is true that power comes from the top, but as consumers we have a voice when it comes to the clothes we buy. So next time you’re in need of a jumper for Edinburgh’s chilly nights, skip H&M and ASOS, check out the abundance of great clothes from charity and vintage shops right next to campus first, and take a stand against fast fashion.
Image Credit: Cumulus Cloud via Wikimedia Commons