What is "Fast Fashion?"
The "fast fashion" clothing industry is characterized by mass producing affordable, trendy clothing that one could find at your local mall and at virtually all "big-box" stores. The primary goal of these clothing manufacturers is to keep current with changing fashion trends through constantly offering new garment collections. They have little to no concern for the mass waste that is created by this momentary and disposable view of fashion. These garments may be inexpensive and easy to acquire, but they are cheaply manufactured, will not last long, and will (most commonly) ultimately end up in a landfill. These garments are not made to last; they are made to serve the fashion trend of the moment and then to be discarded after a few wears or until they are no longer trendy.
These cheap, fast fashion textiles are mass produced and contribute to many forms of environmental pollution. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there are incredible amounts of textiles being unused, thrown out, and dumped into landfills: "every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned." This massive amount of textile waste is a direct byproduct of fast fashion and the cheap, disposable mentality that is characteristic of the industry. One primary value I hold here at JackSews is that I will never purchase new fabrics; all materials I use are from second-hand sources. The purpose of this is to take fabrics (material or vintage garments) that are ultimately headed for a landfill and make them into new pieces of fashion.
Water Consumption + Pollution
In my opinion, the most detrimental aspect of the fast fashion industry is their contribution to global water consumption and pollution. The following are some statements from the World Resources Institute and UNEP on the fashion industry's water consumption.
- "It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. That's more than enough for one person to drink eight cups per day for 10 years."
"It takes about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. That's enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years."
The following are some statements from the same two aforementioned sources:
"Fashion causes water-pollution problems, too. Textile dyeing is the world's second-largest polluter of water because the water leftover from the dyeing process is often dumped into ditches, streams, or rivers."
"The dyeing process uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year."
"All in all, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide."
"A 2017 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that 35% of all microplastics — very small pieces of plastic that never biodegrade — in the ocean came from the laundering of synthetic textiles like polyester."
"Overall, microplastics are estimated to compose up to 31% of plastic pollution in the ocean."
When one purchases a new garment, they are supporting the perpetuation of this pollution and wastefulness. Nonetheless, I am not saying that people should never buy new clothes; I am merely stating one can find many alternatives to purchasing brand new, cheaply-constructed, and unsustainable clothing. After considering that "85 percent of textiles are sent to landfills, i.e. 21 billion tons a year" (ref. UNECE), it is clear to see there is a plethora of fabric that can be reused and worn.
Instead of supporting an industry that uses huge amounts of water and pollutes heavily in order to mass produce their cheap, disposable garments, one can simply purchase a vintage tee or a recycled/reworked garment that has not contributed to any NEW water consumption or pollution. The main issue with the fast fashion industry is the constant mass production; there is uncalculatable waste associated with the manufacturing strategy of trendy, cheap, and temporary. Vintage clothing and recycled/reworked garments are meant to be worn many, many times and reduce waste, pollution, and fabrics being landfilled. Every handmade garment is constructed completely with reused and recycled materials. Only the thread holding it all together is new. All materials are sourced from previously-owned materials such as: jeans, sweaters, towels, tees, pants, blankets. Cuffs and waistbands are sourced from old sweaters and hoodies.