Examining The Consequences of Fast Fashion

Film Recommendation

True Cost (2015)

Following the Trend

This documentary investigates the staggering social and environmental cost of the fashion industry. Specifically, as seen through the trend for Fast Fashion. Despite being an apparent success for the apparel industry, Fast Fashion is a total fail for sustainability. While the growing demand for high-turnover, low-cost apparel may have connected with consumers, it has disconnected from reality.

Unfortunately for the planet, this rapidly-changing, cheaper fashion also encourages consumers to buy and ultimately discard more. It’s managed to generate substantial profits for retailers while contributing immensely to carbon emissions. In addition to the carbon cost, the human cost is also significant. For retailers to keep prices as low as they are, wages and working conditions are suppressed. This is especially true in the developing countries that provide the bulk of the manufacturing.

Factory workers in Bangladesh are essential to the fast fashion industry.
A garment worker in Bangladesh.

Fashionable Disregard

The human cost of the demand for fast fashion is very real, and quite relevant. It’s a factor not normally seen by consumers. Particularly since it happens (predominantly) outside of the developed world. Despite being out of sight, the impact is no less lethal and alarming. The revelation is heartbreaking to those who discover it.

For instance, the documentary highlights major garment factory fires in Bangladesh. Due to poor safety standards & cut corners, accidents have occurred repeatedly. Such practices culminated in the collapse of Rana Plaza (on April 24, 2013), in which 1,129 garment workers were killed. There were over twice that injured. A clearly avoidable tragedy.

The casualties are a result of the current consumer system that requires costs to be driven as low as possible. Considering that the price of the fabric is pretty well a fixed commodity, the savings are exacted from the workers who produce the clothes.

Fashion Fail gif.

Fast Fashion Fails

Wages are pitifully low and conditions are often wretched. Workers in China, Bangladesh, and Cambodia are heavily exploited. These countries are a magnet for the textile industry as a result of the abundance of cheap labour and malleable laws. Human beings are oppressed and put in danger so that companies like Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and UNIQLO can sell their clothes for outrageously low prices, and cash in on even greater profits.

Fast fashion contributes significantly  to the ever-growing textile waste problem.
Fast fashion is filling up landfills. Click for more on this.

Fast Fashion is Clearly Unsustainable

Not only does this rapid consumption culture enact destructive social costs, but it also contributes greatly to landfill waste as represented by the millions upon millions of tons thrown away annually. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.

This fashion debris, already responsible for consuming significant amounts of water and energy in their manufacture, then reverts back to the earth. As it does, it slowly and harmfully leeches out hazardous toxins and chemicals into the air and water supply. It’s pretty awful stuff. 😦

Fast fashion itching to pop a new line.
Click for some great slow-fashion memes.

A Worthy Watch

There’s certainly more to learn! The film only starts to scratch the surface of the fast fashion issue. There’s plenty more to discover about fashion and its impact on people & the environment, but it’s already enough to disquiet the viewer and provoke a number of further questions. True Cost is definitely a tightly-packed documentary. 

The film does a pretty good job of informing viewers. It encourages consumers to reevaluate their purchasing habits and better understand the consequence of their purchases. Excessive & fleeting consumption habits take a nasty toll. We can do better. Alternatives do exist! Go ahead and watch it, then decide for yourself.

PS. If you feel compelled to find alternatives to Fast Fashion, check out Ethical Fashion.

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