What Is Fast Fashion - And Why Is It Killing Our Planet?

From low-paid workers to the environmental destruction of burning excess clothes, fast fashion is extremely unsustainable
Workers making clothes
Workers making fast fashion are often badly-paid (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

More people are starting to talk about fast fashion - and the myriad issues it causes.

Fast fashion generally refers to clothing that is designed and turned around quickly, usually inspired by the catwalk, and made to reflect current trends.

Often inexpensive, and highly disposable, fast fashion is responsible for water pollution and textile waste - among other issues, including low paid labor.

Ethical fashion

Vanita Bagri is the Founder and CEO of LaBante London, a vegan-certified brand producing luxury handbags and sunglasses. She said: "Is fast fashion ethical?

"You see websites selling dresses for £5. You need to ask yourself the question, if something costs so little money, has somebody paid the price when that outfit was made?

"Absolutely somebody did. Someone down the line did. We didn't because we bought the outfit for £5, but what about person who made it? When you start thinking about how these amounts break down, it makes you think about the labor behind the pieces."

Fabric waste

Textile waste is a major environmental issue when it comes to fast fashion. According to Bagri, manufacturers always overproduce, meaning there is often excess stock which needs to be burned. To get economies of scale, and ensure they don't have out of stock situations, large manufacturers and brands tend to overproduce.

"Leftover clothes go into incinerators because if it's the end of the season, and there is not enough display space left, clothes will be sent to burn," she added.

Earlier this year, Dazed magazine branded clothes burning 'fashion's dirty open secret', revealing that both lower and higher end brands do it - with tonnes of clothing and accessories being destroyed in this way every year.

"Burning leads to a lot of toxic pollution and waste, all that toxic smoke gets released into the atmosphere," said Bagri. "This won't impact us immediately but by the time the smog settles, this impacts our planet, our cities, and our rural suburbia because usually, that’s where the incinerators are located, impacting wildlife as well as people."

LaBante London handbag
LaBante creates classic designs that are made to last

What's the answer?

Discovering the provenance of your fashion, when it comes to where it's been made, and by who, can be very difficult. Conscious designers like Bagri are taking steps to ensure that workers are treated fairly.

"At LaBante London we employ a Chief Ethical Officer. She makes sure that factories are not mistreating their employees and maintain the right worker conditions, including correct ventilation and lighting - which are checked during surprise visits."

She adds that she makes products with a long lifespan, saying: "We offer a one-year warranty on our products because we believe in slow living. We are not a fast fashion brand - the major part of our collection will be classic designs so that your wardrobe stays evergreen and you can help reduce the amount of consumption and waste in this world."

Slow fashion

When it comes to general tips in maintaining a more sustainable wardrobe, Bagri recommends looking towards vintage fashion. "These clothes have already been manufactured and the waste has already been created due to that manufacturing process," she said.

"Another good tip is to buy classic-style Clothing, handbags, and accessories. Seasonal trends come and go, but being sustainable means thinking about what we buy, so we don't just end up going to stores and buying unnecessary, wasteful, items.

"Time has come to ensure that your products last you as long as possible so always store your clothes and accessories properly so as to elongate their life and usage."

*This is a paid for advertorial for LaBante London.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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