“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.” ~ Lucy Siegle
Fast fashion utilizes trend replication, rapid production, and low quality materials in order to bring inexpensive clothing to the public. This results in extremely harmful impacts to both the environment and to human beings across the globe.
The fashion industry, up until the mid-twentieth century, ran on four seasons a year: fall, winter, spring, and summer. Designers would work months ahead to plan for each season and clothes were made to last. Currently, fast fashion brands produce fifty-two “micro-seasons” a year. This means one new “collection” every week.
Because of the speed of production and demand, many brands are focussed on selling very low-quality merchandise, at very low prices. The fast fashion manufacturing process intentionally creates disposable clothing and consumers are encouraged to throw away pieces after only a few wears.
The wider environmental damage caused by the fashion industry is, in large part, due to fast fashion. Each year, the clothing that is thrown away amounts to about 11 million tonnes in the US alone. These synthetic garments are full of chemicals such as lead and pesticides, which impact air, water and soil quality. Seventy-five percent of fashion supply chain materials end up in landfills where they do not break down. This amounts to the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles per second.
All of the elements of fast fashion—trend replication, rapid production, low quality, competitive pricing—negatively impact on the environment and the people involved in its production. A garment worker’s health is constantly being jeopardized through long hours, exposure to harmful chemicals, and abuse. The people who make fast fashion clothing are often underpaid, work in unsafe environments, and pushed to their limits because there are few other options.
Slow fashion is a movement towards mindful manufacturing, fair labour rights, natural materials, and lasting garments. Conscious fashion means there are brands, communities, and individuals who are fighting for the safety of our earth and fellow humans. Buying a garment from a responsible brand ensures that you maintain agency over your personal style, purchase a quality product, and protect those that need it most.
If you are interested in learning more about ethical fashion and brands, I highly recommend that you check out the work of Aja Barber. She focuses on sustainability, ethics, intersectional feminism, racism and all the ways systems of power effect our buying habits.
Although I am just beginning to learn about this important topic, I know the power of my dollar. Where I choose to put my money matters. I can influence positive change through being strategic in my choices, purchasing less, and focussing on supporting businesses who mirror my values.
A few Canadian brands that I am currently enjoying include:
Inner Fire is a Canadian-made, female owned brand. It focusses on producing quality, eco-friendly active wear made from post consumer, BPA free recycled raw materials.
Yoga Jeans is a socially responsible, eco- friendly denim brand quality that provides its customers with 100% Canadian made garments in the finest materials. Many of their core styles are Better Cotton Institute (BCI) cotton.
A Canadian-made company based out of Toronto, Canada. Franc’s fabrics are knit and dyed using OEKO-TEX non-toxic, low-impact, environmentally-friendly dyes and a OEKO-TEX standard 100 certified TENCEL™ Cotton Blend.
Purchasing slow fashion items is a long-term investment. It means making intentional choices about buying one or two items, rather splashing out on a seasonal wardrobe. As an alternative to buying new, there are also lots of great economical choices to be found in local, second hand stores. Purchasing gently used clothing is a fantastic option if you need more affordable choices, as there are often quality pieces to be found. You just need to take the time to make a targeted and thoughtful search. Happy shopping!