From Kim Kardashian to Kylie Jenner, celebrities spark interest and envy with their designer outfits. These days, designer can be bought for less because of fast fashion. Fast fashion describes the quick mass production of clothing to meet consumer demands and shopping patterns. It involves a network of swift supply chains, labor shortcuts, environmental degradation, and trend identification by brands. Now, buyers can purchase identical designs to those worn by their favorite influencers, but that is the only benefit amidst this crisis.
The fashion industry is wasteful, and there’s no doubt about it. The Clean Clothes Campaign found that 3 out of every 5 clothing items end up in a landfill within a year. In the US alone, 85% of textile waste goes to landfills. Fast fashion is the reason for this waste. Consumers constantly buy what’s trendy, and cheaper materials means clothing is more affordable and replaceable. On the flipside, brands are also contributing to the problem. Producers often overproduce clothing and throw away excess clothing in landfills.
Landfills are becoming a throwaway for the fashion industry. The flimsy materials used in everyday clothing today means that the garbage is often the only option, as opposed to upcycling or donating. Unfortunately, our trash is a problem for the environment. In the Atacama desert, landfills are piling and at least 39,000 tons of clothes arrive each year. In Ghana’s market, 15 million items of clothing each week are brought from overseas. 40% of all their clothing shipments end up in landfills. This clothing often sits there, or ends up being burned.
People may think that donating solves this, but it just creates more waste and potentially more problems. Donated clothing has a high potential to reach a landfill, especially when they are old or of poor quality. Donated clothing also disrupts local economies by creating competition for artisans. In Guatemala, for example, consumers have plentiful access to paca, which is second hand imported clothing. Consumers are drawn to this instead of handmade options.
Fast fashion has created several problems, but change can always be pursued. While producers can be held responsible by governments and NGOs, consumers can take action to combat this speedy shopping. We can shift towards more sustainable closets, with the help of sources such as Good on You, which determines how ethical a company is based on labor standards, environmental impact, and more. We also need to become disciplined and stop shopping so much. We need to devote seasons when we shop, and avoid making it a hobby or vice. With unwanted clothing, we can hold clothing swaps and reuse clothing to make accessories and other crafts. Lastly, we need to have a durability criterion for purchasing goods, so cheap items don’t flood in landfills repeatedly. The market meets the consumer demand, so individual change is essential for industry change and lasting sustainability.