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Clothes shopping used to be an occasional event—something that happened a few times a year when the seasons changed, during special occasions or when we outgrew what we had. However, things changed, with the passage of time. In the last few decades, we have seen fashion trends changing more and more quickly. Clothes became cheaper, trend cycles sped up, and shopping became a hobby. And this is when Fast Fashion started gaining momentum.

Fast fashion is described as cheap, stylish, mass-produced clothes that have a huge impact on the environment. These garments appeal to shoppers because they are affordable and trendy. But at the same time they aren’t built to last and quickly go out of style, and since the owner didn’t spend much money on them, these clothes are quickly discarded, piling up in landfills.

Fast fashion is a relatively new phenomenon in the industry that causes extensive damage to the planet, exploits workers, and harms animals.

How is Fast Fashion Polluting our planet?

Fast fashion’s negative impact includes its use of cheap, toxic textile dyes—making the fashion industry the one of the largest polluters of clean water globally.

Polyester is one of the most popular fabrics used in fast fashion. It is derived from fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and can shed microfibres that add to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans when washed. But even “natural” fabrics can be a problem at the scale fast fashion demands. Conventional cotton requires enormous quantities of water and pesticides during its cultivation and a lot of water and energy in its maintenance.

The processing of leather also impacts the environment, with chemicals added to when the animal hides are tanned. In addition to raising the livestock needed, the leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals on the job, while the waste generated pollutes natural water sources leading to increased disease for surrounding areas.

The speed at which garments are produced also means that more and more clothes are disposed of by consumers, creating massive textile waste. With clothing that is cheap and easy to acquire, we often do not even question where our clothes come from or how they are really made.

Exploiting workers

As well as the environmental cost of fast fashion, there’s a human cost. Fast fashion impacts garment workers who work in dangerous environments, for low wages, and without fundamental human rights. Further down the supply chain, the farmers may work with toxic chemicals and brutal practices that can have devastating impacts on their physical and mental health.

Harming animals

Animals are also impacted by fast fashion. In the wild, the toxic dyes and microfibres released in waterways are ingested by land and marine life alike through the food chain to devastating effect. And when animal products such as leather, fur, and even wool are used in fashion directly, animal welfare is put at risk.

Coercing consumers

 Fast fashion makes us believe we need to shop more and more to stay on top of trends, creating a constant sense of need and ultimate dissatisfaction. The trend has also been criticised on intellectual property grounds, with some designers alleging that retailers have illegally mass-produced their designs.

How can we make the shift to slow fashion:

Here is how you can make the shift to slow fashion:

  1. Repair and Take Care of Your Clothes
  2. Wear Second-hand Clothing
  3. Shop Mindfully

Having sustainable practices is the only option to break up with fast fashion and for giving the planet a healthy future with adequate resources and equal human rights.

Dr. Suniti Bhagat

Assistant Professor

Department of Home Science

Patna Women’s College (Autonomous)

Patna University