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The Dangers of Fast Fashion Pt.1: What is it?

최종 수정일: 7월 5일

Yoonje Jin


ZARA, H&M, Uniqlo and SPAO.

Over the last two decades, these clothing brands have boasted a customer-friendly catalog— one that has been diverse, comfortable, and affordable for many people. Such business strategy had amassed them an incredible customer base and great capital in record-breaking speeds.


But, for these fashion companies to prioritize speed in their business, they are paying an enormous cost: corruption of our society's perception of responsible consumption.


Compared to conventional fashion companies, these "fast-fashion" brands focus on the quantity of their catalogue, rather than the quality. Instead of improving the durability of their clothing, for example, they invest the capital in analyzing the latest trends and manufacturing products as soon as possible.



Through constant analysis of consumer data, the brand is able to produce dozens of new clothing every week— allowing the company to target newer audiences each time, with a cheap price.


The roaring success of this model since the late 1990s have lured the majority of fashion businesses to follow this operation. While this shift has allowed more people to realize the joy of affordable, diversified fashion, it has also allowed our society to normalize overconsumption of clothing— with many people buying and discarding new clothes every season or even every few months.


According to a 2022 report by the Textile Exchange, a U.S. textile nonprofit, global textile production reached 113 million tons in 2021, doubling from the previous year.


The environmental damage caused by fast fashion stretches beyond business structure and social impact, as we need one more explanation: scientific explanation of microplastics, a byproduct of garment production which is leaving a devastating impact on our environment. 


The vast majority of clothing manufactured by fast fashion brands isn’t made from natural fibers such as cotton and flax. Instead, the clothes are mixed with plastic-based man-made fibers such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, and polyurethane in order to reduce costs and increase the unit profit. While this process of mixing artificial materials strengthens the product in the short term, it also produces excessive wastewater, carbon emissions, and other by-pollutants, and makes  them impossible for natural degradation. Additionally, the unstable makeup of the amalgam spurs chemical reaction whenever the cloth is washed, rubbing off microscopic pieces, hence microplastics.


To put this in perspective, a single T-shirt produces 1.2 billion microfibers in its lifetime, all of which flow into the waterways, to be absorbed by the flora and fauna, then to slowly poison our environment— ultimately finding ways into our bodies. 




It seems that the environmental damage done by the fashion industry has reached an extreme. As much as excessive and compulsive consumption attitudes have been spurred through, the systematic destruction and ignorance towards the earth has increased too. The longer we avert our gaze from the mess that is our consumption, and stay as ignorant consumers, the more our environment and hence our society deteriorates. We must stand-up and be aware of the issue of fast-fashion. Understand the implications of our actions. Contemplate whether a purchase was necessary, whether the company regards the environment well. If not, we would need to try our best to make them so.



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