Remember when department stores produced only two collections a year? Spring/ Summer and Fall/Winter. That was it and that was enough.
Today, the term Fast Fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby companies produce new collections at a very high pace.
Companies now offer between 26 to 52 collections per year to meet consumer’s demand for the most recent trends.
But at what cost?
The consumer isn’t the one “paying the price” since this practice is mainly utilized by the low-end brands . The price of their clothing is ridiculously low, especially in the clearance sale section filled with items that are barely a month old. In short, companies must get new trends as quickly and cheaply as possible to market in order to offer new clothing to customers who are constantly looking for the next best thing. And here we go again… And again…
The Human Cost
Knowing that only 12 cents from the sale of every $14 t-shirt goes towards a workers salary raises some serious doubts around the always faster always cheaper industry. Tragedies such as The Rana Plaza or shocking documentaries like The True Cost are a reminder that these issues exist. Unfortunately, the cycle resumes its “normal” course just a few hours later, the news being relegated to a dark corner of our collective brain. As a society, we are in denial. Yes, we do like to constantly renew our wardrobe in order to follow the latest fashion trends dictated by the industry and yes, we also like to pay less. Our reality is so far away from that of these misery workers that it is difficult for us to even conceive it.
Yet, thousands of workers in Bangladesh and in other textile-producing countries work for an extremely low salary and in appalling conditions beyond understanding. All of this so we can have the latest trend t-shirt for cheaper than cheap. Food for thought when in comes to the hidden cost of clothing. One thing is certain: someone, somewhere is paying the price. If not the one selling nor buying it, then it’s inevitably the one making it.
The Environmental Cost
The environmental burden behind such practice is obviously heavier than we can imagine and bear as a planet. We throw tons and tons of clothing collectively every year. We can outrightly call it an environmental disaster. Most of the clothing sold in those department stores are of very poor quality. We quickly get rid of them either because they are out of style or because they wear out after a few washes. For this reason we can’t resale them, and often charity and second-hand stores won’t take them. Therefore they end up in the landfill.
Beyond the environmental cost of the pollution produced by ending their days in the landfill, clothes also pollute when being manufactured The fashion industry is, by the way, the second most polluting industry right after the oil industry. Imagine all the ressources needed to manufacture these poor quality garments that will be worn an average of 5 days and will have a 35-day lifespan. The mere thought of the long term consequences is chilling.
Fast Fashion exits because we, as consumers ask for it and encourage it. Each and every one of us plays a decisive part in this phenomenon and by shedding light on the reality of this industry, we will hopefully succeed at bringing some change. Would you be willing to pay a little bit more, and to consume a little less in order to be part of the solution?
By Camille Tériault