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The Clothing Industry: Concerns of Fast Fashion

 

May 27 2024

The Clothing Industry is the production, distribution, and sale of garments. With every person in the world purchasing and wearing clothing, the industry has become highly profitable. In 2021, the global apparel industry made $825.7 billion. With so much profit, it is hard to understand why 85% of garment workers are making less than minimum wage. The clothing industry is full of ethical issues that will make you think about the true cost of buying from big corporations. 

Fast Fashion 

Fast fashion is mass-produced clothing that is outsourced to be made cheaply and quickly. It can be attractive to buyers due to its trendy style and low price. The reason companies like it is for its high profits, fast production rates, and mass quantities. Some companies that participate in the fast fashion industry are Zara, GAP, Shein, and H&M. If the clothes are made cheaply, you might be wondering how there is such a high-profit margin. The first reason is markup. The clothes are made anywhere from a few dollars to cents apiece and then are marked up 50% or more — this is the price you pay. The second reason is the cycle of new clothing. Customers are likely to revisit a store if they know that there will always be new pieces. In a year, there are four seasons — winter, spring, summer, fall. In a fast-fashion season, there are 52 micro-seasonsThese micro-seasons allow companies to always rotate new clothing in. 

Behind the Scenes: Fast Fashion 

Wages 

Think about the shirt you are wearing. More likely than not, the person making your shirts is only paid a few cents for each shirt they make. Below the minimum wage, most garment workers get paid per item of clothing they make. How do companies get away with paying so little? By only paying the minimum legal wage. The minimum legal wage is hardly anything to live off of — it is lower than the living wage. A living wage is barely just enough to provide for basic needs so when considering minimum legal wage, it’s clear that it is not enough to sustain basic human needs. 

Working Conditions 

Employees normally spend 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 96 hours per week working in garment factories. With such long hours, you would hope that there are safe working conditions. Unfortunately, garment factories operate far below health codes. There is commonly no ventilation, toxic chemicals in the air, and poor building conditions. The 2012 fire at the Tazreen Fashions Factory and the 2013 Bangladesh garment factory collapse at Rana Plaza remain to be examples of the insufficient factory environments. 112 workers at the Tazreen Fashions Factory and 1,132 workers at the Rana Plaza factory lost their lives due to the negligence of the building owners. Working conditions continue to be a major ethical issue in the fashion industry and are a primary reason you should be careful where you purchase clothes from. 

Environmental Issues 

Producing fast-fashion clothing takes a large toll on the environment. Microplastics, water consumption, and clothing landfills are all issues caused by the industry. 

Microplastics 

Microplastics are fragments of plastic found in the synthetic materials used to make garments. Clothing is the main cause of microplastics in the ocean which affect our ecosystem.

Water Consumption 

Water consumption used during manufacturing adds up to around 79 billion cubic meters of water per year. One cubic meter is about 264 gallons of water. This water is dyed and filled with toxic chemicals and then commonly sent back into the ocean untreated. 

Clothing Landfills

Cheaper clothing also means cheaper quality. When clothing wears out, it is tossed out and found at a landfill. 85% of clothing goes to landfills or is burned. This clothing is mainly made up of materials that cannot be recycled so they sit in landfills where they release chemicals into the environment. 

Stay Away From Fast Fashion By Thrifting 

Thrifting 

Have you ever heard the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Thrifting is the practice of shopping for gently used clothing at second-hand thrift stores or online. Previously owned clothing is cheaper and an enjoyable way to give back to the environment, save money and avoid fast fashion.

Where Can You Thrift? 

Thrifting can be done in-store or online. Stores like Goodwill, Plato’s Closet, and Uptown Cheapskate are great places to thrift. Some popular second-hand online sites are Poshmark, Curtsey, and ThredUP

Give Away, Don’t Throw Away

Don’t add to the clothing landfill, donate your clothes. Places like Goodwill will take your gently used clothing and allow others to enjoy them. You can potentially get a charitable deduction on your tax return by giving to Goodwill. Some thrifting stores or sites will even give you money for your items. 

DIY’ing Thrifted Items

If you have a different vision for something you find, you can always transform it! Some examples are thrifting sweaters and unraveling the yarn to crochet or using a sewing machine and altering your second-hand clothes to make them yours!

The fast fashion industry continues making money and ignoring the problems they cause. By thrifting instead of buying, you are contributing to the reduction of the ethical and environmental issues that come from the production of their garments.  

Jessica Voyles
Jessica Voyleshttp://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicavoyles
Jessica Voyles attends the University of Georgia where she is studying advertising. She is dedicated to helping her community by using her God-given talents and compassionate heart. Learn more about Jessica

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