The fast fashion industry is a large-scale global emitter of greenhouse gasses, pollution, and waste. The industry is fueled by wealthy nations and consumers looking to keep up with trends. Here's how trends, social media, and influencers are accelerating an already wasteful and problematic industry.
The Fast Fashion Problem
The name fast fashion speaks for itself - fashion that is quick to reach the market is cheaply made, mass-produced, and increasingly popular. The issue with fast fashion is that just as quickly as it becomes trendy, it becomes out of style, meaning these mass-produced garments have a very short lifecycle. Once a trend cycle is obsolete, fast fashion buyers contribute to over 17 million tons of global fashion waste by throwing out these pieces of clothing.
In 1960, the average American bought up to 25 new pieces of clothing per year. Today the average American buys an average of 70 new garments in a single year but spends around 7% less of their annual income on their clothing budget. This is made possible thanks to the rise of cheap fast fashion allowing consumers to stretch their budgets and buy more than ever before.
Despite its rising popularity, fast fashion is largely responsible for taking a horrific toll on the environment. According to a 2017 report, the equivalent of an entire dump truck of clothing ends up in landfills (or is burned) each second in the United States. Because fast fashion is known for being so affordable, the quality of these garments is lacking, and are less likely to be donated or reused. And a lot goes into the production of these cheaply made pieces - the fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of CO2 emissions worldwide.
Research suggests that if the fashion industry continues to follow this pattern of growth, it will use 25% of the world's annual carbon budget by the year 2050. Not to mention, fast fashion is responsible for significant water pollution and water waste, as well as unsafe labor conditions.
The Influence of Social Media
Social media, celebrities, influencers, and societal pressures have a larger impact on the fashion industry than ever before. With constant and instant access to social media, consumers have lessened the speed-to-market of fashion cycles. This means that trend forecasters assist social media influencers to create highly calculated content that will create demand for a certain trend nearly overnight.
The rise of a fashion trend can occur when consumers see a large amount of paid promotions for a product disguised in the form of social media posts from their favorite influencer or celebrity. A fashion trend can also follow celebrity photo-ops such as Fashion Week or the runway. Except these celebrity fashion dupes are the result of fast fashion and are largely cheaply and unethically produced. All trends eventually die, and with this constant access to fashion influences online, fashion cycles are being made shorter than ever.
There is a large responsibility that comes with being a social media influencer or celebrity. Societal pressures have always been significantly influential on young people, particularly women. And with digital technology, this population of young women are constantly comparing themselves to photoshopped images of women with perfect skin, hair, and body types. When they see these images online, it is in their nature to want to mimic the look of these influencers. That takes the form of makeup, accessories, and of course, fashion. In a time where influencers are so easily accessible, it makes perfect sense that the younger generation feels a massive social pressure to constantly keep up with what is trendy.
Affordable, Trendy, And Killing Our Planet
Mobile technology is creating a drive for fashion that is impossible to keep up with. And with so many influencers encouraging over-the-top spending habits in the form of "clothing haul" videos, regular media consumers are urged to attempt to keep up. These hauls are often, if not always, from fast fashion retailers such as H&M, SHEIN, or Amazon.
Known for shockingly cheap and fashionable garments, SHEIN is at the forefront of throwaway fashion. Retailers such as SHEIN contribute to overconsumption, pollution, and human waste. These fast fashion retailers are also known for ripping off independent creators with no acknowledgment for their art. Thrift stores are now oversaturated with cheap pieces of clothing from retailers like SHEIN because of the rate at which fast fashion trends are dying.
How to Boycott Trend Cycles That Drive Fast Fashion
The lifecycle of a trend exists in five stages; introduction, rise, peak, decline, and obsolescence. The best way to avoid contributing to these cycles is to attempt to ignore these stages, even if it means reducing your time spent on social media. By wearing what you already own and making sustainable purchases to supplement your wardrobe as needed, you can make yourself immune to following trends that influence fast fashion. Focusing more on using what you own, repurposing what you own, creating a wardrobe that is functional for your unique lifestyle, and shopping for second-hand clothing, can be key components in boycotting fast fashion.
Fast fashion is cheaply made and mass-produced clothing that steadily keeps up with fashion trends.
Fast fashion is detrimental to our environment.
The lifecycle of fast fashion styles are fairly short, urging consumers to feed into a multitude of back-to-back trends.
Fast fashion is often caused by paid promotions on social media or celebrity photo ops.
You can boycott fast fashion by creating a wardrobe that is functional for your unique lifestyle and shopping for second-hand clothing.