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The Real Price of Fast Fashion

Is fast fashion as cheap as we believe it is or should the price of apparel be measured on a different scale?


As a young fashionista, the realization of the fashion industry’s damage to the environment was a total shock. Since it is a booming - and on the surface - glimmering industry, not everyone looks behind the curtains. I was amazed by the cheap prices, the trends, and the up-to-date items of clothing the stores offered until I read an article that gave me a glimpse into the disadvantages of the industry. All my former opinions have changed right away and my shopping habits shifted to the opposite. What could these extremely surprising facts that might be unknown to all of you be? I will show you some of the biggest ways fashion damages the planet.

The fast-fashion industry offers the newest trends for the possible cheapest prices, so anyone who wants to stay fashionable can afford them. The well-known brand Zara offers 24 new collections yearly, which clearly explains why we see new colours and outfits in the shop windows every single time we pass the store. Twenty-four is a huge number when we compare it to luxury brands as Gucci who puts out five collections per year. The secret of the fast-fashion companies is that the garments they offer have low-quality, the wage of their workers is extremely low and they exploit the environment. Despite all that, people tend to purchase large quantities from these huge amounts of apparel and they usually look at them as disposable goods due to the cheap prices. It explains the fact that 85% of all textiles are dumped out each year, and in every second the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or thrown into landfills. Unfortunately, not only the clothes, but after a brief lifespan, their packagings are thrown into containers as well.


The tremendous waste generation is not the only factor that makes the industry outstandingly harmful. The water consumption for producing garments is so unbelievable, it even made the Aral Sea in Russia dry up in 50 years. It sounds impossible until we realize that the production of 1 cotton shirt needs 700 gallons of water. If you drank at least 8 cups of water for 3 years, you would still not reach the amount of 700 gallons. Another high water-demanding clothes item is a pair of jeans, which take about 2000 gallons of water to be produced. This water amount is equivalent to drinking 8 cups of water daily for 10 years. The reason is that cotton is a highly water intensive plant and it is the main component of both jeans and shirts. Water usage is not the only matter connected to fast fashion, unfortunately. Water pollution is mainly caused by the dying process, which can even make rivers take up the colour of the recent fashion trends’ colours in areas where garment production takes place. All in all, 20% of water pollution is related to the fashion industry. The last piece of incredible data is that the fashion industry is responsible for more carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

(Photo: Sourcing Journal)

All of these impacts are terrible and although, I don’t think the world started to act in time to make these effects less significant, conscious consuming and sustainable ideas are emerging. People have started to become more and more aware of the environmental situation, therefore their actions are more thoughtful, they tend to buy lasting apparel and support local and environmentally conscious alternatives. I personally find it very hard sometimes to say no to the appealing price reductions, sales, and online offers, but I have to make myself remember that the price I pay for my outfits might become a more significant price for all of us. As Karl Lagerfeld said „Trendy is the last stage before tacky”, so maybe we should strive to be more stylish and unique rather than fashionable.

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