A few weeks ago I watched a documentary that forever changed my view of the fashion industry; specifically fast fashion and how I shop for clothes. The documentary is called True Cost and I watched it on Netflix.
Call me ignorant, but I had no knowledge of the fast fashion supply chain system, not that the information isn’t readily available with a quick Google search. My mind just didn’t go there when I was shopping for clothes. When I would walk into a store and see a trendy pair of jeans for twenty dollars I would get excited, now the thought of that excitement just makes me sick to my stomach. Let me explain why:
The documentary calls out many of my favourite retailers – H&M, Zara, ASOS, and Boohoo just to name a few. These are all places I shop often, and these retailers part of the Fast Fashion industry. Fast fashion retailers are able to move fashion designs from the runway to stores very quickly, hence the term “fast”. This ensures mainstream consumers can buy the latest trendy items quickly in-store or online. Quality isn’t at the forefront when retailers are producing these trendy items. The goal is to mass produce trendy items for a low cost. Production is done in third-world countries in order to keep costs low. Workers in the factories in the third-world countries are often subject to poor working conditions and low wages – even for their standards.
So when you see those jeans for twenty dollars, you really have to think about why you are able to walk into a store and buy them so cheap. The true cost of these jeans is really the cost of the factory workers (majority being women) in Bangladesh (or other third-world countries) who are making these clothes in unsanitary and unsafe working conditions and getting paid as little as $2 dollars a week so that mainstream consumers can continuously buy cheap and trendy items for their closets.
This was me up until about a month ago. As the writer of a fashion/lifestyle blog I am constantly scouring the web researching about trends and visiting online retailers to scoop up the trendy items for the season. The problem with fast fashion is that it empowers the average consumer – like me, to shop a lot. I am an average consumer, and because a lot of the items from fast fashion retailers are low cost, I can afford buy a lot of clothes and it makes me feel good. I can afford to revamp my wardrobe every month if I really wanted to without breaking the bank. I can buy a new dress for every date night, birthday party, or occasion that comes my way. I can wear it once and throw it away. That is reality for me and a lot of millennials, but not at the cost of someone’s life. This was not possible even 10 years ago when there would generally be 2 seasons for fashion - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Now stores have new items every week. Boohoo adds 700 new items to their online store every week, which is so mind blowing to me. As a consumer, how can one possible keep up? Items that were purchased online and take two weeks in the mail are no longer trendy once you get them (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). These fast fashion items are really one time wear items. I think about my closet that is overflowing with items I have purchased and worn just once.
After watching this documentary I was honestly in a state of shock, it was like I had been hiding under a rock all of these years. I felt guilty for not only taking part in fast fashion as a consumer, but I also promoted it as an influencer.
I don’t really know what my next steps are in terms of fashion. I am in this place where I feel the need to take some time and reevaluate a little bit. I have been writing this blog for 4 years now, I started it when I was 22 years old and I want this to be a place that I can continuously grow and evolve with my readers. Where at 22 I might have accepted things at face value, at 26 I want to be more aware of what is going on in the world and care more about "the why" behind things. It doesn’t mean I am going to stop loving fashion, I don’t think that’s the answer. I think moving forward I need to be a more conscious consumer and put my dollar in the right place when it comes to shopping for clothing.
Those are just some of my initial thoughts on the subject, but it is something I am going to continue to educate myself on and keep you updated on where my head is at around the topic. I strongly suggest watching True Cost to learn more about the global impacts of fast fashion.