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The Problem with Fast Fashion


What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing companies that mass-produce clothing at a rapid pace to keep up with the latest clothing trends. The majority of clothing brands that you find at malls in first world countries are a part fast fashion including Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, and many more. The problem with this type of business is that it overproduces cheaply made clothing with unsustainable materials, which quickly becomes trash that piles up in landfills and pollutes the earth. Along with the environmental factor, these companies outsource labor and the factory workers who make their products work inhumane hours in terrible conditions, not even earning a livable wage. Overall, this business model is harmful and unsustainable.

I believe that this topic is important because it affects both local communities, our broader global community, and the environment. The rate at which people in first world countries go through clothing is not sustainable and it greatly contributes to pollution and climate change. It also hurts underpaid, unethically treated workers that make the clothing for fast fashion brands. While I do think that a lot of people are becoming more aware of the problems with fast fashion, I know that not everyone is aware of them or just how harmful the industry is. This problem is especially important to me because I think this is an area that I and the people in my community can easily do our part in to make a real change.

My Project

Problem:

I started out my project by identifying the problem I wanted to focus on: the damage fast fashion wreaks on the environment.

The fast fashion industry produces too much clothing and does so in a way that is both extremely unethical, unsustainable, and increasingly damaging for the environment. Consumers in rich countries waste their own money by buying and throwing away an obscene amount of cheaply-made clothing that piles up in landfills and pollutes the Earth. This problem centers on the UN’s twelfth and thirteenth Sustainable Development Goals: Responsible Consumption and Production, and Climate Action.

Research:

I then researched and found ten hard facts from reliable sources to help me understand the problem and to use in my project:

  1. Sales at thrift shops and consignment stores are growing 5% per year. (https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.115-a449)
  2. The 12-15% of Americans that shop at consignment/resale stores prevent an estimate of 2.5 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste from going directly into the waste stream. (https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.115-a449)
  3. Only approximately ⅕ of the clothing that is given to charities is directly donated or sold in their thrift stores because there “are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountain of castoffs, even if they were given away.” (https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.115-a449)
  4. Retail spending on clothing reached approximately a trillion dollars in the year 2000, with Western Europe accounting for 34%, the U.S. accounting for 29%, and Asia accounting for 23% of the market. (https://www.assignmenthelp.net/files/zara-fast-fashion-case-study.pdf)
  5. Brands used to release collections about 4 times a year, following the seasons, but currently fast fashion brands release collections for about 52 “micro-seasons” every year (putting out new pieces every single week). (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion)
  6. 11 million tons of clothing is thrown away every year just in the United States. The garments are often full of toxic chemicals that very rarely break down but release into the air instead, contributing to an extremely large carbon footprint. (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion)
  7. Factories in Bangladesh that manufacture and export clothing ignore laws and standards that are meant to protect workers and the environment because doing so would mean they had to raise the cost of their products. Instead they pay workers one of the lowest minimum wages in the world and hire children who are driven into the labor force by poverty. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/opinion/sunday/the-real-cost-of-cheap-shirts.html)
  8. The fashion industry creates 92 million tons of solid waste in landfills every year. (https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/7575/copenhagen-fashion-summit-how-not-to-make-the-fashion-industry-more-sustainable/)
  9. In 2015 the fashion industry consumed approximately 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water and emitted over one million tons of CO2 into the air. (https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/7575/copenhagen-fashion-summit-how-not-to-make-the-fashion-industry-more-sustainable/)
  10. The fashion industry and makes over a billion clothes every year and global garment production is predicted to increase by 63% by 2030. (https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/7575/copenhagen-fashion-summit-how-not-to-make-the-fashion-industry-more-sustainable/)

User Needs:

After researching the statistics about fast fashion, I identified that the things needed for consumers to stop adding to the waste that this industry creates is ethical, sustainable clothing options that are also affordable and accessible, as well as more awareness about what brands contribute to fast fashion and why it is a problem.

The majority of popular clothing brands you would find in a mall produce their clothing unethically, but a huge portion of the people purchasing their products are either completely unaware of the issue with fast fashion or cannot afford to buy their clothing at other stores. The majority of ethical, sustainable, and environmentally friendly brands sell their clothing at higher prices because they are paying for quality materials and paying their workers a good wage. The other option is thrift stores and consignment shops, which typically have lower costs, but admittedly can be harder to find quality pieces of clothing in.

Plan:

In the end this all came together in a plan to create a series of posters that raise awareness and promote grassroots change about the issue of fast fashion and overconsumption by advertising and advocating for ethical consumer choices. I planned on making posters Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and wanted to “advertise” things like thrifting and buying less clothing, and identify and advocate for “saying no” to unethical brands and exploitation.

Process:

I started my design process by brainstorming and sketching out different types of posters, layouts, and ways to convey this message.

After receiving feedback and chose the three designs I liked the most and explored them more with larger hand-drawings that planned out my digital designs.

Below you can see some of the process I went through in designing the three posters. I played with the colors and the layout, refining the designs along the way. I wanted to clearly state my messages and say information in my infographic-poster both simply and accurately so that anyone can viewing it can understand it without having prior knowledge on the topic of fast fashion.

Final Design Work:

These three posters are my final designs, fully completed.

What Can You Do?

Learn More

If you have 20 minutes to spare and want to learn more about these issues I recommend watching this TEDx Talk by Patrick Woodyard, the co-founder and CEO of an ethical and sustainable shoe company called Nisolo.

The True Cost

If you have a bit more time to spare I urge you to watch The True Cost, a documentary that goes more in depth into the disturbing realities of the fashion industry and focuses on the human rights violations that occur within it. The movie is available for purchase online (https://truecostmovie.com/) or you can watch it for free if you already have a Netflix subscription.

A Quick Survey

I ask that you take the short survey I made, it should take you less than five minutes and I would appreciate your feedback!

Google Form: https://forms.gle/HERi96X5DLWFSCyFA

Get in Touch

Thank you so much for reading my page! I invite anyone to comment on this page or reach out to me through email or Instagram if you want to talk more about this issue or ask me a question directly. I would also love to see you post your thoughts about fast fashion on social media and tag me in it or send it to me! 🙂

My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tesslovesquesadillas/

My Email: tessn2020@headroyce.org

Works Cited:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1azQHC7Ff7BW6kbXEwiegI299p-uF_s5dR1E6jbzaIUM/edit?usp=sharing

Share this project
COMMENTS: 4
  1. April 25, 2019 by Lauren Bernard

    I love your page! I shop at a lot of the fast fashion brands you mentioned, but I never knew the environmental damage they were causing! As an individual, I can help with a solution by deciding to not shop at these stores, but how do you think a bigger solution can be put in place where these brands will be held accountable for their actions? How can the public become more aware?

  2. April 29, 2019 by Julia Cohon

    Hi Tess! I was a bit familiar with the term fast fashion and some problems that it causes. However, I never knew the environmental damage they cause! What do you think is the biggest way that students are able to promote change? Are there more ways that this issue can be solved that is attainable by an individual?

  3. April 30, 2019 by Christopher Ko

    Hi Tess. This is an interesting topic. The idea of how buying clothes can cause mass environmental damage is very interesting and important to educate others about. The ways that you chose to convey your ideas is very interesting and creative, and I really like the idea of using drawings.

  4. May 04, 2019 by Alyssa.Chang

    Hi! I recently watched a film on fast fashion in my class, so I knew about the problem before reading your presentation. Teens and younger generations are the ones that like to buy new clothes. I notice people nowadays like to thrift for clothes, which I think is a huge improvement for the environment. Why do you think thrifting is becoming popular, do you think thrifting will continue to be as popular as it is now?

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