“Fast-fashion” is the new buzzword in the fashion industry. It is the term actually used for designs that make a fast move from a ramp to becoming current fashion trends. The main goal is to produce a product that is both cost-efficient and can match the fast-changing consumer demands. This is based on the assumption that consumers nowadays want high-fashion clothing at a low price. The companies, which can be considered as oriented to fast-fashion, are Zara, H&M, Forever 21and Asos.

Though the consumers largely accept fast-fashion all across the world, it is criticised for causing environmental harms. This is because fast-fashion focusses on speed and low cost and in a pressure to reduce cost and time of production, environmental concerns are often being overlooked.

The main environmental concerns in regard to fast-fashion are water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, increasing levels of textile waste and negative impact on the environment. Let us discuss in brief about these:

Use of Toxic Chemicals: It is true that vibrant colours, prints and fabric’s finish appeal us to a large extent. However, we should also know that these colours and finishes are obtained by using toxic chemicals. Many of such chemicals are strictly banned or regulated in certain countries, as they are poisonous, bio-accumulative and disruptive to hormones, and carcinogenic.

Water Pollution: The most popular fabric used in fast-fashion is polyester, which is highly responsible for polluting the oceans. On washing polyester clothing, microfibers are realised, which can easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants, thus reaching the oceans. These microfibers do not biodegrade and are consumed by small creatures such as planktons. These microfibers reach human via food chain from fish to shellfish and then humans.

Soil Pollution: Cotton crop requires a large amount of water and heavy use of pesticides to prevent crop failure. As a result, it causes a negative impact on the soil and the environment. Moreover, developing countries do not have enough resources and budget to make sufficient investment for sustainable growth of the cotton. In order to reduce pesticide use, cotton crop is modified to be resistant to bollworm pest (most common cotton pest). This also improves the yield. However, another issue here is the emergence of superweeds, which are resistant to normal pesticides, and to treat them more toxic pesticides are used. These are harmful to livestock and humans.

Although some fashion brands have started using sustainable textiles such as organic cotton, yet the overall use of organic cotton is still restricted to 1 percent of the world’s annual cotton crop.

Textile Waste: Another major consequence of fast-fashion is the textile waste. The tempting array of newness in the racks of major fashion brands makes it tough to resist buying new clothes. Now people buy more clothes and do not keep them for as long as they used to keep. Fashion retailers are constantly working to offer something new to the shoppers and convince them that the items they keep are no longer fashionable. Further, the rising disposable income, time poverty, seasonal sales, etc. are prompting people to buy clothes regularly. As a result, the textile waste of the industry has increased manifold. It becomes hard to decompose it. Although the circular model of textile production has been initiated, yet recycling rates for textiles are quite low.

Fast-fashion is the need of the hour and thus, cannot be eradicated from the fashion industry. However, fashion retailers, textile manufacturers and other professionals in the industry need to find out ways to make this fashion business model sustainable

Author's Bio: 

Mayank Mohindra is an author on apparel, fashion, and textile industry. His articles are based on latest apparel industry news, textile news and/or analysis of the dynamics of global apparel trade, and fashion industry.