Updated: July 26, 2019 7:05:54 am
Fast fashion refers to clothing that is mass-produced inexpensively, coming straight from the catwalk to deliver the newest trends to consumers at low prices. The defining characteristic of fast fashion is its affordability, and in recent years, major fast fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara have set up major businesses in India.
The reason why fast fashion has increasingly been in the news — and controversy — however, is the impact it has on the environment. Before the fast fashion boom, the industry had two production cycles: the so-called ‘spring’ and ‘fall’ collections. Fast fashion production, however takes place in as many as 50 to 100 ‘micro-seasons’, with consumers discarding garments very quickly.
According to a McKinsey report, the lowest-priced fast fashion garments may be discarded after being worn just seven or eight times. Consumers are now retaining clothing for only half as long as they did in 2000, resulting in a vast increase in the amount of waste generated by the fashion industry. In fact, after oil, fashion is the world’s second-most polluting industry. And as the scale of production grows, so does the scale of pollution.
In 2015, the clothing industry was responsible for 1.714 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and used 141 billion cubic metres of water. Water-dyeing textiles have resulted in the industry also being the second-largest polluter of clean sources of water globally, after agriculture.
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How are fast fashion retailers enabled to keep prices down? The primary way is through utilising innovations in supply chain management and relying on cheap labour — generally overseas from where the company is based. Several large fashion houses have been criticised for sourcing their products from “sweatshops” employing “slave labour” in Asian countries, including India and Bangladesh.
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