Dirty Laundry: A Lens on Fast Fashion
If you are someone who follows fashion brands and blogs, you may have heard the terms "fast fashion" and "slow fashion" being thrown around a lot in the last couple of years.
Even on this website, we label our brand as a small batch, slow fashion brand.
What does all of that even mean?
Well, this blog aims to fill you in on the basics of slow and fast fashion, the global impacts, and the steps LAYA Active takes to ensure ethical and sustainable production.
HEADS UP: Before you read through, I want to emphasize that this blog does not intend to make you feel bad in the ways you interact with the current systems in place. Rather, it aims to give you a little bit of awareness and knowledge to create intentional decisions on how you can participate in these systems moving forward.
Alright...let's start with the basics. Here are two terms that help us to visualize the difference between fast and slow fashion. There is a linear model of production which fast fashion uses and there is a circular model of production which slow fashion uses.
- Liner Model: Raw materials are obtained, garments are produced, and then at the end of their life cycle they are discarded.
- Circular Model: Links the chain between the end of the life cycle of a product back to the beginning by means of recycling the product back to the raw material state.
Now, let's dive deeper into fast fashion and slow fashion.
Well, fast fashion is the massive acceleration in the cycle of production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of clothing.
In other words, it's a term used for brands and companies that mass produce trends to put them on the market in record speed. Some companies take only 5 weeks between design concept and the store front!
That means 5 weeks to create a concept, develop a prototype, obtain enough raw material, mass produce the product, and get them into the chain stores. To put this into perspective, some of the top fast fashion brands include GAP, ZARA, Shein, Fashion Nova, H&M, Top Shop, and Forever21.
I won't lie, the rate and quantity at which these brands pump out trend after trend is impressive.
But, it begs the question, how do they do it? There are 3 production similarities between all fast fashion brands:
- Reduced production cost
- Cheap labor
- Low quality material
Each of those carry huge impacts socially, environmentally, and economically. Let's take a deeper dive into those impacts.
Impacts of Fast Fashion
Social ImpactIn order to meet the huge increase in speed and demand of fast fashion, top companies send their manufacturing to impoverished countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
There, sweat shop workers experience hazardous conditions, a 7 day work week consisting of 14-16 hour days, and very, very little pay.
They can earn as little as $0.03/hour creating garments that sell for $40-60.
Environmental ImpactIt is estimated that the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry after the oil industry. It even pollutes more than the shipping and aviation industries combined!
The fashion industry impacts the environment in 4 keys ways: Water pollution and overconsumption, greenhouse gases, landfill waste, and deforestation. YUCK!
Here are some quick, astounding number for you to chew on:
- 1 pair of jeans requires around 1,850 gallons of water to produce
- 70% of rivers and lakes are contaminated from wastewater produced by the textile industry
- 10% of global carbon emission comes from the fashion industry
- 85% of our clothing ends up in landfills
- 5% of all global waste is textile waste
- 70 million trees are cut down in deforestation that props up the fast fashion supply chain and raw material needs.
Economic ImpactAt first look a fast growing industry that sells at a rapid pace for less money seems like a good idea economically, right? More access to more goods at a cheaper price.
However, upon closer inspection the fast fashion industry props up a linear production model that is only economically beneficial to the bank accounts of high-ranking CEO's of these companies.
The CEO's are amassing billions of dollars in fortune, which far outweighs the small economic savings on the general population and the minimum wages of retail associates.
Overtime, this contributes to the monopoly effect with fast fashion brands completely dominating the global market while pushing huge amounts of money to the top 1% of the company.
Additionally, studies show that 50 years ago 10% of the average annual salary was spent on clothing. Compare that to now with 3% of the average annual salary is spent on clothing, which sounds great BUT we also own 3 TIMES as much clothes as we did 50 years ago.
So, we're paying less for more and more clothing at a lower quality. Our consumption is at an all time high, but what are we actually buying?
The average human throws away 70lbs of clothing a year, which inevitably ends up in landfills, and is usually made from synthetic non-biodegradable material.
The Silver Lining:
So where does this lead us? Well, it's not all doom and gloom. It leads us to the front lines of the slow fashion movement. Which I am so proud to say LAYA Active is a part of.
Slow fashion brands must...
- Use textiles that have a limited environmental impact
What we do: We use only recycled materials in our garments and our packaging.
- Avoid harmful chemicals in textile and dyeing process
What we do: Our garments are dyed using a very environmentally safe method called sublimation
- Regulated production from ethical manufacturers that pay fair wages in safe environments with humane work hours
What we do: Our products are made in the USA, and even more specifically in Houston, our neighboring sister city. We have visited our manufacturer and have created a relationship with them and their awesome team!
- Uses a circular production model.
What we do: We are currently working on this piece of the puzzle by figuring out a place where we can send your old or tattered LAYA leggings to be recycled back into the raw material we use for production. Please stay tuned for developments!
To read more about our current sustainability practices, click here!
What You Can Do
It's difficult to read all these facts and figures and not want to a. do something about it, but b. also feel like it's too big of a problem to fix. Not to worry, this will take time. Here are some impactful ways that you can make a change now:
- Support Slow Fashion Brands
The more these brands get supported the more accessible slow fashion will be for the masses.
Here are some of our faves: LAYA Active (shameless plus), Eileen Fischer, Cariuma, Alternative Apparel, Andie Swim, Public Goods, and The Honest Company
- Shop secondhand and donate your old clothes!
- Develop your own personal style that is timeless and resistant to trends. Trends are a tool propped up by the fast fashion industry that uses consumer psychology to create the desire to wear the latest fashion even though the fashion changes every 4 weeks. Basically, it's designed to be impossible to keep up with.
- Get intentional about your purchasing habits. It's easy to swipe a card or hand over cash without really thinking about the production impacts that product has on the world.
- Share this blog with friends and family to plant the seed. Together we can all take small steps towards lessening our carbon footprint and towards being a stand for the ethical treatment of our fellow humans and the planet.
Now, I know...I just threw a lot of facts and figures at you. Remember, this is all food-for-thought. I hope this blog left you with some wheels turning on how you can change some habits. Start with baby steps, and as a community we can support each other to move toward a more sustainable future together!
Until next time,