Let’s talk about fast fashion.
First off, that study in America begins with the study of the slave trade of the 1600s, with the understanding that the system of enslavement built the economies of many nations, including the United States’ agricultural economy of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the southern cotton economy of the 19th century (which dominated two-thirds of the world cotton market and accounted for 70 percent of the raw material fueling Britain’s industrial revolution).
More recently, globalization (shorthand for trade agreements of the 1980s and 90s up until today) has led to the fast fashion trend, and the notion that clothes are considered to be disposable by many consumers, due to increasingly lower prices.
You’ve noticed it, too. Weekly or twice monthly sales and offers are announced by Old Navy, Target, Walmart, and others.
Do you remember when there were four distinct fashion seasons, plus extras like “resort wear” and one or two holidays?
I vaguely recall a fashion shift happening when I was a kid in the 1970s, and the concomitant increased commercialism that unleashed more “stuff” around a minor Hallmark moment each month: New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.
I’m commenting because I’m noticing.
I was stunned to learn that the number of new garments bought by Americans has tripled since the 1960s. And, every year, the world as a whole consumes more than 80B items of clothing. That clothing contributes to resource and waste pollution, due to the fact that most of these items will be thrown out.
And the companies producing these cheap items, who are making a profit, want the clothes as fast as possible, natch!
Speedy mass production, combined with cheap labor, will make clothes cheaper for those buying them, and allows fast fashion trends to maintain economic success.
When clothing ends up in landfills the chemicals on the clothes, such as the dye, can cause environmental damage by leaching the chemicals into the ground.
Excess waste also contributes to the issue of using so. many. sites. just to store waste and garbage.
Also, when unsold clothes are burned, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. As per a World Resources Institute report, 1.2B tons of CO2 is released in the atmosphere per year by the fast fashion industry.
All of this is to say that people need to be intentional about clothing purchases. Seek out high quality, ethically made fashion.
I aspire to zero waste in my shop, which is one reason I flip thrift store finds and use natural fibers when making something new.
And, there is another shift happening now. It has been in the works over the past decade. It is the turning of the tide to a more sustainable future. For fashion manufacturing. Of small, slow stitching and knitting and making, farming, and dyeing.
Much more on that to come.
Header image: Jason Leung, Unsplash