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This week is Fashion Revolution Week, which commenced on Monday, April 24th, remembering the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, one of the most tragic factory collapses to date.
I attended an event earlier this week hosted by TH3EFOLD & Bond Collective NYC here in NYC. The event held an hour-long panel discussion of the fashion industry's desperate need to promote sustainable and ethical supply chain practices.
One of the panelists, Alden Wicker from Ecocult, brought up a great point about HM, who has recently made an effort to integrate ethical fashion into their fast fashion supply chain. The effort in itself is commendable for such a large retailer; however, looking at the big picture, it almost cancels out the fact it is a "fast fashion" retailer.
So what exactly is fast fashion and why does it carry such a negative weight?
Fast fashion, often called “disposable fashion” literally mimics the word fast food. It is relatively cheap, will instantly satisfy your need, and will most likely not be good for you in the long run. Fast fashion is clothing that is often considered “trendy” and hits the store’s floor within weeks of conceptual design. It then ends up in the consumer’s hands, worn once or twice, and ultimately thrown away or donated. Think of the last time you went to an H&M, Forever 21, or Primark. You probably ended up buying several items under $50 and ended up wearing them only handful of times before either getting tired of them, or having them fall apart at the seams.
Just like fast food, you often do not know what ingredients you are consuming.
Yes, all clothing has a content label, but what the label is not telling you is the conditions or dyes being used. A few years ago I bought a pair of dark wash skinny jeans at American Eagle. They were relatively cheap, fit great, and had that perfect rich navy dark wash. I was instantly satisfied. It wasn’t until after a week or so of wearing them that I realized they had a very chemical-like odor and every time I wore them, I would get a feeling of a hot flash along with a headache. The chemicals used in the dye were literally making me sick. Not to mention, the color rubbed off on everything- my purse, shoes, and skin. It was a disaster.
These examples are only some of the superficial effects of fast fashion. Here, in short, are a few of the deeper & darker repercussions and where the term really gets its bad reputation.
There are typically two parts to this.
- Human Factor– harsh treatment of factory employees, low wages, hazardous working conditions
- Environmental Factor – waste, pollution, water contamination, animal cruelty
Image: Fashion Revolution x Greenpeace (Source: Elizabeth Cline 2014)
So while, H&M is vetting their factories for fair treatment of employees and producing in non-hazardous building structures, the negative impact of the quick turning “fast fashion” model is almost canceling out their positive efforts.
What does the cost really mean to you?
I’m sure many of you reading this will say “What about the people who cannot afford better quality clothing”. This was a question brought up at the panel discussion, and the answer is this. Less is more. Take the money you spend on several low price items and invest in one quality product that you will wear several times. We as a consumer need to start educating ourselves on what is good and what is bad. Just like we do with food.
The purpose of this post is to spread awareness of the negative effects of fast fashion during Fashion Revolution week. You can do your part while showing some love to yourself and your closet by choosing quality over quantity.
Buy less, buy better. Period.