Do I participate in Fast Fashion? Low prices and easy availability are tempting, and even if clothes are only worn briefly, I can donate to others by popping them into one of the convenient clothing collection bins, so where is the harm in indulging in trendy, cheap new looks?
Considering the Pope’s words however, I slow my finger hovering over the “purchase” key and wonder: How are the clothes made so cheaply? Who sews them? What really happens to those clothes in the bins?
Fast Fashion is described as a never-ending chain of fast actions – fashion trends come and go constantly, production is fast, a decision to buy is fast (“only 3 remaining”, “one-click purchase”); delivery is fast; and clothing is worn and quickly discarded.
Looking into Fast Fashion is eye opening. It is well known that clothing workers are among the lowest paid, most disregarded people in the world, and outsourcing to long chains of contractors and subcontractors makes accountability a challenge. The documentary by Andrew Morgan, “The True Cost” explores just that in chilling concrete images and testimony.
Since it is not important for Fast Fashion to last, cheap synthetic fabrics are used. These are a major source of the micro plastics now found everywhere from the Mariana Trench to Mount Everest. Hundreds of thousands of fibers come off the clothes in each washing and are swept away eventually to the sea. Cleaning up the environment is not a solution since garments are churned out at overproduction rates.
As for donations, in November 2021, an image of a mountain of discarded clothing in a Chilean desert went viral. Chile and Ghana are well known dumping grounds of Fast Fashion. Last year, a mountain of cast-off clothing outside the Ghanaian capital city of Accra generated so much methane that it exploded.
What have I learned? Before I make a purchase, I will try to slow down and find out what cost society and the environment pay for the item and I will try to remember our interconnectedness.
What will you do?