What comes to your mind when someone says trendy, fashionable, and affordable? Of course, big brands like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, and Shein, which are widely popular and are known for their cheap and fashionable clothing. These are clothing giants that entice their loyal customer base with sales and exciting offers, and you cannot say no to them.
But the cost of making these clothes comes at a heavy price. These brands are the biggest players in the fashion industry and are also among the most damaging industries for the environment. They are fast fashion retailers who bring out large quantities of a variety of products and allow consumers to get more fashion and product differentiation at a very low price.
Stores like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M are the pioneers of fast fashion in the 21st century
‘Fast fashion’ is cheaply manufactured and low priced garments that copy the latest catwalk styles and get quick entry into retail stores in order to maximise on the current fashion trends. It is called the fast fashion model because it involves rapid design, mass production, and distribution as well as heavy marketing. Today, it takes less than fifteen days for a garment to move from the design stage to being sold physically in stores. The term has gained more prominence in recent times and is often used in conversations revolving around environmental consciousness as well as sustainability.
This is extremely worrisome because the fashion industry, especially since the rise of fast fashion, has become the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 10 per cent of carbon emissions and 20 per cent of wastewater globally. It also dries up water sources and pollutes waterways. This is because these fast fashion retailers use about 700 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt and about 2,000 gallons to make one pair of jeans. Moreover, the textile dyes that they use contribute to polluting these waterways as the chemicals leak into the water, which also poses health risks to the general population.
Fast fashion has been growing at an unsustainable rate
These brands also use synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and acrylic which take several years to biodegrade. The fast fashion model is also an energy-intensive process. Even cotton is not an environment-friendly fabric to manufacture for fast fashion companies as they are exposed to a number of pesticides that are very harmful.
So, what’s the solution? The alternative to fast fashion is sustainable fashion or eco-fashion. To counter the environmental damage caused by fast fashion, sustainable fabrics like wild silk, organic cotton, hemp, linen, and lyocell can be used in a responsible manner. We can certainly choose to shop in a more sustainable way, but getting involved with sustainable fashion does not necessarily require buying anything new.
Sustainable fashion aims to be conscious and ethical
Sustainable fashion brands like Brogger, Insom, Ka-Sha focus on bringing out cruelty-free products. They use fewer resources wherever possible to reduce impact and conserve water by using organic mills and ozone technology in its production to benefit people, plants, and animals. Some of these brands also give away their profits to charitable causes. Even vegan leather has become very popular in recent times.
Local Indie fashion brands are becoming popular
It is essential that we as consumers stop buying from these fast fashion companies and instead choose locally produced garments. Try opting for local Indian brands like Udd Stories or Anokhi that are made by indigenous communities.