“Explore the dark side of the fast fashion industry, revealing labor malpractices and environmental degradation. Learn how this trend impacts workers, fuels exploitation, and contributes to pollution. Discover the need for regulatory measures, ethical supply chains, and sustainable alternatives in the pursuit of a more responsible fashion industry.”
In this day and age of reels and shorts, where the trends are short-lived and changing in seconds; the fashion industry is also no stranger to this phenomenon. Traditionally, There were two major fashion seasons: spring/summer and fall/winter, with collections being unveiled about six months beforehand. But “fast fashion” has become more popular recently, with some brands releasing new collections every few weeks.
The majority of the time, seasonal collections are displayed at fashion weeks in well-known cities throughout the globe, where designers show off their most recent works to buyers, media, and industry influencers. Consumers can then purchase these collections from a variety of outlets, such as boutique shops, department stores, and internet merchants.
Fast fashion has gained popularity because it is accessible and affordable, but it also has negative effects on the environment and society. Fast fashion is frequently produced using low-quality materials and labour methods that put speed and economy over morally and environmentally responsible methods. As a result, it aids in waste generation, pollution, and labour exploitation and malpractices.
Let us look at the same in more detail.
Fast fashion means fast-paced fashion. The term “fast fashion” refers to the quick production and distribution of affordable, in-style apparel. Short lead times, frequent product turnover, and affordable prices are its essential characteristics. In recent years, a select few brands (like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara) have developed this new concept where they indulge in mass production while accommodating extremely brisk trends by breaking the traditional seasonal approach into 52 micro–seasons over a year (1 trend per week).
The fashion or textile Industry has always been a labour-intensive one, i.e., it relies more on manual labourers than machines. This concept has further left a very short time for people working in the fashion industry an extremely short time to create new clothes. This then leads to sacrificing quality over quantity and using cheap labour, which in turn leads to gross violations of labour law.
This new concept has led to many problems. To begin with, meeting the demands of production at such a large scale also pushed these brands and fashion houses to cut costs in any way possible.
One way of doing the same is outsourcing this work to sub-contractors who further outsource this work to countries where labour laws are sloppy and cheap labour is available –e.g., countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, etc. as in such countries it is very easy to exploit such labourers who have very little protection. This creates a very complex supply chain of which the initial brands or companies are not aware which also frees them from any kind of liability for such malpractices. Additionally, even if these companies are aware of such practices then also they can shirk their responsibility and liability by saying that they have no control over the subcontractors.
Moreso, in these countries’ child labourers, are also easily available. These processes and work of creation of textiles are more suited to children as these processes do not require much skill. Further, children having delicate and small hands can work more finely on such processes making them even more desirable candidates or employees.
The wages given to labourers working in this Industry are abysmally law. The working conditions are far from great. There are no regulatory bodies and a severe lack of safety regulations being followed. The situation gets more complex as these labourers often come from extreme poverty and are desperate to earn any amount and are willing to work in such dismal conditions and environments.
This process of fast fashion also severely impacts the environment. The fashion Industry is one of the biggest polluters and this novel concept worsens its already alarming contribution of pollutants. As discussed earlier, to cut costs cheap material is used to make these clothing collections which lead to them being worn out quickly, after a couple of uses. This leads to a sharp incline in Textile waste. Further, many hazardous and poisonous chemicals are used for this fast production of clothes.
In conclusion, the fashion industry is growing at a rapid rate and so are these malpractices with it. There need to be ways developed to solve or tackle these issues.
In conclusion, if an Industry like Fast Fashion needs to survive in the long run, then it should look at the problems in its processes and work effectively to curb them. There is a pressing need for better and more innovative alternatives and innovations to mitigate the harm that is caused to both the labourers and the environment at large.
With a stronger emphasis on sustainability and ethical behaviour, the fashion business is undergoing a huge transition. Although fast fashion still dominates the industry, consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable and ethical solutions as they become more conscious of its negative effects.
1. Child labour in the fashion supply chain – Where, why and what can be done, Josephine Moulds, The Guardian, https://labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/.
2. Fast Fashion and Its Impact, Gartex texprocess India, https://www.gartexindia.com/how-has-fast-fashion-impacted-the-garment-industry/.
3. Fast Fashion Getting Faster: A Look at the Unethical Labour Practices Sustaining a Growing Industry, Emma Ross, International Law and Policy Brief – The George Washington University of Law, https://studentbriefs.law.gwu.edu/ilpb/2021/10/28/fast-fashion-getting-faster-a-look-at-the-unethical-labor-practices-sustaining-a-growing-industry/.