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Fast Fashion – What on Earth is happening?

fair trade fashion

Growing up in the 80’s, it was common to inherit clothes from your older siblings or swap clothes with your cousins. Fashion and design was not such a big thing back then and wearing the same shirt more than five times was definitely not frowned upon.

Today we’re looking at a new, and quite frankly horrifying, trend that they call fast fashion. I say new, because it’s only really been around for 20 years or so and for those of you that are not familiar with the term, allow me to shine a light on the matter.

Fast fashion is basically a manufacturing method used by large scale clothing and textile companies in order to produce as many products as possible, as cheap as possible in the shortest amount of time, to offer a quick turnover of designs to keep up with the current fashion trends. H&M, Urban Outfitters, Zara and Victoria’s Secret are prime examples of global fast fashion stores.

Fast fashion accounts for nearly 70% of all online fashion purchases, so surely it must be brilliant, right? Let’s start with the positives; shopping is fun and the lower the prices, the more you can shop and they’re also new and trendy items, so you can look super cool when you go out with your friends and oh, they’re available everywhere and everyone can afford them, so everyone looks the same and you are therefore easily socially accepted.

Now, the negative impact fast fashion has on our planet, animals and humans is such a long and terrifying story that you could write a suspense novel about it and so I won’t go into it in detail in this blog post; but here’s a scary list neatly put together for your convenience (embrace yourself):

Interestingly, another thing that emerged in the early 2000’s was a raised awareness of global warming and the effects greenhouse gas emissions have on our planet and ultimately on us human beings. Most likely as a direct response to the rapidly evolving fast fashion industry and the fact that the textile industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions and is absolutely detrimental to the environment, we started seeing a movement that went in the opposite direction. It’s not about yoga and meditation and the need to find inner calm in a world that we are slowly destroying for our future generation, although that surely helps (and if you like yoga, you can have a look at our yoga mat carrier bags here). We’re talking about ethical fashion, also known as slow fashion.

A textile company that focuses on a unique design, the creation of the product and pursue sustainable materials with higher quality with the intention to make garments that last, that is what we call slow fashion or ethical fashion.

Since ethical fashion only accounts for 30% of all online fashion purchases, you might think “what’s the fuss about”? Well, since the materials are sturdy and sustainable, the garments are of much higher quality and you can enjoy them for much longer. They might not always reflect the fashion that just came off the catwalks, but they often come with a well thought through and unique design. Due to the high quality materials and the fact that the products often are handcrafted by artisans that get paid fairly for what they do, the production cost is higher, which is why ethically made clothing comes with a heftier price tag.

The fast fashion industry is thriving because there’s a demand for their products. And as long as there’s a demand, blissful ignorance from consumers and not enough laws and regulations to prevent companies from exploiting workers in underdeveloped countries, wasting a huge amount of our freshwater reserve and using fossil fuels to create synthetic materials that last less than a year and take 200 years to decompose, the industry will keep growing.

In recent years we have entered a new era of corporate transparency, which is a wonderful way of making companies take responsibility for their actions. Luckily, more and more people understand the urgency of fighting climate change and their demand, as it should be, is to know more about the product they are purchasing and the company that sells it. By choosing eco-friendly products and supporting fair trade certified companies, you encourage companies to source and manufacture their products in a more sustainable manner. There’s a fantastic compilation of sustainable brands and fair trade businesses on the Fair Trade Federation website.

What can we do? Remember 15 years ago when it was not that easy to find organic food? Well, today it’s available in every single supermarket because there’s a demand for it. We need to do the same with sustainable clothing. The more people that demand it, the more accessible it will become and the happier our planet will be!

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