BY Molly Saunders

Fast fashion is quickly becoming a buzzword in our day-to-day lives. 

You may have heard it from an influencer or come across it in your newsfeed, but what is it? And why should we care?

Defined by Collins Dictionary as ‘the reproduction of highly fashionable clothes at high speed and low cost’, fast fashion is a way for big brands to get designer styles straight from the runway into their stores at consumer-friendly prices.

Unfortunately, this method of production comes at a huge cost to both human rights and the environment.

Fast fashion retailers include our go-to brands such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, Boohoo, Missguided and so much more. While shopping at these stores we often disregard the impact the production and purchasing of fast fashion has on the environment.

The wide availability of on-trend clothes at low costs has created a throw away culture in many western societies. The Guardian reports that Australians alone send more than

500,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill annually. Sadly, 95% of this amount is reusable.

The environmental problems don’t stop there - the sheer amount of resources that go into clothing production is astounding. According to the WWF it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt!

Speaking of cotton, the chemicals and fertilisers required to produce such large quantities of this material are not just bad for the environment, but our own health too. This is not to mention all of the other chemicals used in clothing production. These chemicals often end up in our ecosystems during and after the process, causing even more damage.

These points should be enough to make any person reconsider their next shopping spree, but we also need to recognise the impact that the fast fashion industry has on the lives of those making the clothes.

The way that these brands can sell clothing at such a low price while still making large profits comes down to offshore production. In countries such as China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India, big clothing retailers can employ workers at very low wages and bypass major health and safety regulations.

Unfortunately, there is little to no oversight to prevent human rights injustices in these overseas factories. This is why, as consumers, it is our duty to demand better factory conditions by choosing more sustainable clothing from brands who are fairer to their workers.

Some ethical and sustainable Australian brands include Sydney-based The Social Outfit, ELK The Label, Bassike and Thread Harvest. Although these brands may be pricier than regular fast fashion stores, you will be guaranteed good quality clothing that supports the environment and the workers.

Alternatively, you can always check out op shops such as Salvos, Vinnies and Lifeline. Not only will you be giving to charity, but you also won’t be contributing to the fast fashion industry.

Although a lot is already being done to reduce the impact of fast fashion, we can all play a role in combatting this issue. Next time you want some cheap threads, maybe think twice about hitting up those big fast fashion retailers. Before you go to throw away that jacket you’ve only worn once, consider giving it to a friend or donating it. These actions may seem small, but they can have a big impact on the environment and on the lives of others.

Molly is a journalism student who loves The Office, Oreos and online shopping. Her go-to brunch order is overpriced smashed avo and an almond milk latte. Follow her on Instagram.

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