The New Year is a great time for a reset and a rethink, not just about our personal goals and aspirations, but also about how our choices impact the world around us.
In an era marked by Instagram influencers and ever-changing fashion trends, the allure of 'fast fashion' – the mass production of “trendy clothing” – has become a global phenomenon. But at what cost? As we drape ourselves in the latest styles, are we also cloaking our planet in irreversible damage?
Fast fashion, with its quick turnaround from design to production, allows retailers to rapidly produce garments in response to the latest trends. Many companies drive these trends to sell you clothes that you don’t need based on a promise that is never delivered. This business model thrives on constant consumer demand for new clothing. However, this relentless cycle has a dark side that's becoming impossible to ignore.
Environmental Catastrophe in the Closet
Every year, the fashion industry churns out billions of garments. This mass production consumes vast quantities of water, energy, and other resources. For instance, it takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton shirt – enough to meet the average person's drinking needs for two and a half years. When you consider the global scale of production, the numbers become staggering.
Synthetics used for cycling fashion is even worse when you account for resource consumption, chemical use, water usage, energy consumption and end of life issues.
The industry is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the energy used in production processes and transportation of goods across the globe. The carbon footprint of a single garment is enough to make any environmentally conscious person pause.
The Wastefulness of 'Wear and Toss'
Fast fashion's environmental impact doesn't end at production. The business model encourages a 'wear-and-toss' mentality, where clothes are seen as disposable. As trends come and go with dizzying speed, last season's must-haves quickly become this season's trash.
This disposable culture leads to an astonishing amount of waste. Millions of tons of clothing end up in landfills every year, where synthetic fibres can take hundreds of years to decompose. Moreover, as they break down, they release toxic substances and microplastics, further polluting the earth and water sources.
The Human Cost
There's also a human toll to fast fashion. To keep costs down, many companies outsource production to countries with lower labour costs. This often leads to exploitation, with workers facing unsafe conditions, meagre wages, and long hours. The tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed over 1,000 garment workers, brought global attention to these issues, yet exploitation remains rampant.
A Shift in Consciousness
So, what can we do? The first step is awareness. Recognizing the impact of our clothing choices is crucial. We can start by shifting our focus from quantity to quality – buying from the manufacturer and buying fewer, more durable items. Care for the clothing in a way that prolongs each garments useful life. Supporting sustainable and ethical brands, recycling, and upcycling clothes are small but powerful actions.
Moreover, we need to challenge the industry to do better. This means advocating for sustainable practices, transparency in production processes, and fair labour conditions. As consumers, your choices and voices have power.
The allure of looking 'cool' in the latest fashion trends is undeniable. But as we stand at a critical juncture for our planet, it's time to weigh our vanity against the health of our world. Fast fashion is not just a wardrobe choice; it's a choice about the kind of planet we want to live in and leave for future generations. Let's make it a sustainable one.
Follow this link to find out more about Marcello Bergamo’s drive to Sustainability.
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