An introduction to sustainable style and the rise of fast fashion.

The term sustainable style  is a relatively new concept to me. It never occurred to me that the clothes I wear have a massive impact on the environment.

In fact, it is the second most pollutant contributor after the oil industry. Textiles, mainly clothes production, contributes hugely towards the amount of waste build up in landfill. Our water ways and oceans are polluted from the chemicals used to manufacture and colour our clothes, although probably the most shocking part of the textile industry is ethical standards for the workers in the industry.  From the disease and illness at the start of the chain amongst the cotton producers, to the dangerous factories and often conditions where the clothes are produced. The ethics along the production line are often questionable at best. Why is this?

The major culprit of this is ‘fast fashion’, a term coined by the clothing industry itself.

photo credit pixabay

What is Fast fashion?

Today many people are consumers of what is called ‘fast fashion’. In a nutshell, fast fashion is mass produced, often very cheap garments that we wear a handful of times, sometimes even just once and then throw them away. Fast fashion is a world away from sustainable style. Fast fashion is partly a result of the rise of celebrity culture and the need to keep up to date with trends, which now come around on an almost weekly basis. Historically we have had four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, where we updated our clothes (if needed) quarterly. Fast fashion has driven clothing costs down drastically. With clothing being sold for just a few pounds, there is no longer the need to save up to buy a new garment, we can just go to the high street and pick something up without really thinking about it. What we don’t consider is how the clothes came to the shelf and where they came from.

A long row of hangers with clothes in a store in Shoreditch

Workers in the clothes industry.

Field of cotton plants ready to be harvested by a farmer

Many clothes are now produced overseas, with Bangladesh being a prime example. Bangladesh has millions of workers, working in dangerous and unsafe factories. With high competition and demand to produce, factory owners are under huge pressure from the retailers to lower prices of production to win business contracts. The pressure to produce at speed and low cost means safety and ethical standards are often forgotten about or ignored.

Take the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. Over a thousand workers died when the factory caved in whilst fully staffed. Workers had reported cracks in the walls leading up to the disaster but nothing had been done about it. This is just one example, fires and illness often occur too through the poor conditions.

The Cotton industry

Due to the high demand for cotton, the cotton farmers are really suffering. A high use of pesticides to speed growth has caused a rise in illness, birth defects and poor mental health amongst the workers and their families. It is also a common thought that the high rates of suicide amongst cotton farmers is due to the pressures on them pay for the genetically modified crops and maintaining production after the soil and land are damaged. For more information read my post on organic cotton here.

Effects on the environment

The effect on the environment from the huge rise in clothes manufacturing has meant a huge rise in waste. The majority of clothes are non-biodegradable so fill up landfill sites and cause chemicals to leach into the environment. Carbon emissions from the importation of textiles from overseas has also massively increased the fashion industries carbon footprint. Soil is suffering across the globe from the increase in fertilisers and pesticides that are being used to meet the demands of cotton production.

Thankfully, sustainable fashion is a growing industry, with more people taking note and exposure to the industry is becoming more apparent. Personally the more I read the more shocking I find it. There is a great documentary called The True Cost Movie, I think everyone should watch it, it has really made me consider where I buy my clothes from. As a clothes lover, this is an area I intend to find a lot more about and hopefully bring it to you in a digestible and informative way.

If you have read this and want find out more check out my sustainable style category for more information.

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