Fast fashion is a huge trend that has rapidly spread globally - offering quick and affordable access to the newest trends and styles. Unfortunately, fast fashion comes at a high price for the environment and workers’ rights. Mass production of clothing causes a multitude of environmental issues along with poor working conditions for factory workers.
The good news is that sustainable handcrafted fashion is a promising alternative that can help to reduce the damage caused by fast fashion. In this blog post, we will discuss the history of fast fashion, its negative impacts, how an alternative model - sustainable handcrafted fashion - can provide an ethical alternative, the lifestyle impact of sustainable fashion, and how consumer education can help to inspire more people to embrace sustainable fashion.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion refers to the mass production and sale of trend-focused clothing that is manufactured and sold quickly at a low cost in response to the latest fashion trends. The main purpose of fast fashion is to produce cheap clothing and replicate what is currently in fashion by delivering clothing to consumers in a short period of time.
This is, however, often done with disregard to the environment or workers, leading to a range of negative impacts. These impacts can range from water pollution due to factory production and chemical use, to increased air pollution from the transport of goods, to low labor standards, to unethical wage practices, and so on.
Though fast fashion can be financially accessible for many, it is ultimately a privileged act to purchase clothing solely for its trend and at the expense of our environment.
The Emergence of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 1990s established brands sought the opportunity to capitalize on the idea of producing popular designs at cheaper prices. They began offering fashionable clothes at an inexpensive price points and of lower quality, rolling out new styles on a weekly basis to keep up with the speedy progression in fashion. This made fashion significantly more inexpensive, convenient, and accessible, enticing consumers to feel the need to buy more pieces of clothing with every purchase, often times, more than necessary.
Consequently, fast fashion brands quickly gained traction and began dominating the industry, making it harder for genuine brands to compete with them, due to the costs involved in producing quality items. Over the next several decades, fast fashion became the norm in the fashion industry and in the present day, we are now starting to see the impact and consequences of this trend on both people and our planet.
The biggest fast fashion companies set the standard for the global fashion industry and are constantly competing to be at the forefront of the most current trend. They have been able to achieve success by offering clothing styles quickly and cheaply, prioritizing profits over labor conditions or environmental impacts. As a result, these companies have enjoyed tremendous success by offering customer accessibility to the most current styles at a low cost.
During the pandemic, many consumers made the switch from traditional fast fashion retailers to online-exclusive brands such as Shein, Fashion Nova, Zaful, and UNIQLO. These newcomers are all part of the fast fashion trend, but have unique business models that include the direct shipping of thousands of new styles from their warehouses, avoiding issues with supply chains and import duties. Moreover, they rely on the use of cheap overseas labor and low quality textiles to provide low-priced garments.
Negative Impacts of Fast Fashion
The negative impacts of fast fashion are far-reaching, ranging from environmental damage caused by pollution to poor working conditions for workers who toil under unethical practices in order to produce garments quickly and cheaply for the sake of fast fashion profits.
Fast fashion is extremely damaging to the environment, with massive amounts of energy and water needed to produce the fabrics and chemicals used in production, resulting in water and air pollution, as well as the further depletion of natural resources.
Additionally, the excessive amount of garments produced by fast fashion companies leads to an excessive amount of waste-mainly in the form of discarded fabric scraps and over-produced garments which are often thrown away. The proliferation of fast fashion leads to an incredible 92 million tons of textile waste being generated annually.
Poor Working Conditions
In order to keep production costs low, many of these companies outsource to developing countries with unethical and dangerous working conditions. The reality of such conditions within the fast fashion industry is often incredibly poor. For example, many garment workers are exposed to unsafe chemicals, leading to serious health issues, such as skin irritation, breathing difficulties, and miscarriages.
The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building located in Bangladesh highlighted the horrendous conditions garment workers often find themselves in, prompting a call for a fashion revolution. Sadly, circumstances are made even worse thanks to the incredibly low wages these workers receive, which provide no way for them to escape poverty and lead a better and more comfortable life.
This creates an exploitative cycle, in which garment workers are forced to continue to work long hours in these poor conditions with little to no protection from hazardous chemicals and unhealthy environments in order to make just enough money to survive.
The good news is that there are alternatives to fast fashion that respect the environment and workers’ rights. These alternatives prioritize quality over quantity, and prioritize the well-being of farmers, garment workers, and artisans.
By choosing to buy sustainable fashion, customers are choosing to support smaller craftspeople rather than large multinational companies. Additionally, when buying sustainable fashion, customers are investing in timeless pieces that are designed to last, rather than succumbing to disposable clothes.
Sustainable fashion has the potential to make a positive lifestyle impact on those who choose to embrace it. By practicing sustainability, customers are choosing to support the skill, dedication, and hard work of small studios and independent brands. This is a far more ethical choice than investing in large multinational companies, who prioritize profits over people and the planet.
Sustainable fashion pieces are often handmade, so there is an extra level of sentiment that comes with the creation that you cannot get from fast fashion brands.
Furthermore, with sustainable fashion, customers are investing in pieces that are handcrafted with passion and dedication, meaning that each product is unique and of the highest quality.
Quality over Quantity
The idea of quality over quantity could not ring more true than it does when it comes to sustainable fashion. Sustainable brands strive for quality and longevity. Purchasing items that are crafted from premium or natural fabrics with the intention to last allows for a much more sustainable wardrobe that can be worn and enjoyed for many years to come, as opposed to fast fashion garments, which often have a low-quality construction.
Furthermore, with sustainable fashion, customers are investing in stylish and uniquely crafted pieces that are rare and can easily be mixed-and-matched. By taking the time to find and mix pieces from ethical fashion brands, you are able to create an individual style that truly reflects who you are as a person. This sense of curation and craftsmanship is what makes ethical fashion so special and unique.
All in all, consumer education is the key part of creating a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry in the years to come. By educating consumers on the impacts of fast fashion and the benefits of sustainable fashion, we can inspire a greater understanding of its urgent importance. Together, we can truly make a difference in the future of the fashion industry, in helping to reduce the environmental damage caused by fast fashion.
Additionally, educating consumers on how to take care of their sustainable fashion items will ensure that the garments last longer, further reducing the damage caused by the fashion industry.
Jostheartisan.com provides a sustainable alternative to traditional fast fashion. Our pieces are all handcrafted with respect for the environment, workers, and customers alike. All materials are consciously sourced to be both sustainable and of high quality, with attention to even the smallest details.
Each product is designed and handcrafted locally from start to finish. Not only does this model bring sustainable income to the local Artisans, but it also ensures that each piece is crafted with care and attention from beginning to end.
Furthermore, our pieces are designed to last and are made from premium couture and natural materials, meaning they can often be styled and worn with pride for many more times than a fast fashion accessory.
We are committed to building an ethical retail platform in which customers are aware of exactly where and how their pieces are made. This provides customers with the ability to make informed decisions about their purchases. By purchasing sustainable fashion, customers are ultimately voting with their wallet and making a positive change to the fashion industry.
Jostheartisan.com is currently looking to build a community of talented artisans, so that their craft can be showcased to a wider audience. Through this proposed community, we strive to build a group of conscious shoppers to actively support our Artisans and their craft.
If you are a talented Artisan looking to expand your platform and share your skills with the world, we welcome you to join our growing community. Get in touch with us through our social media pages or by sending us a message in the link above, and learn how together we can make a difference! Let's join forces and help create a more sustainable world for today's fashion industry.
Be the Change!
The ripples we make today will soon become waves of endless opportunities. So start today! Next time you find yourself shopping for fashion garments and accessories, vote with your wallet and opt for sustainable handcrafted fashion. Together, we can create a better environment for the generations to come by choosing to invest in brands that are committed to reducing their environmental footprint and promoting workers’ rights.
If you enjoyed reading this post, we invite you to explore our range of handcrafted pieces today. With every purchase you make from our online shop, you will be investing in quality fashion pieces that are meant to last and help you stand out from the crowd. You will also be supporting local Artisans to continue crafting a more diverse, colourful, and sustainable future for the fashion industry in the years to come!