The clothes that are worn everyday — purchased, worn down and thrown out — are some of the silent killers of the Earth and her inhabitants.
Fabric is wearing out the world.
As fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M gain in popularity among the new generation, concerns have developed over the production of this clothing. Fast fashion is the turnaround of runway styles to cheaper markets in as little time as two weeks. It has single-handedly become both the evil behind the curtains of the fashion industry and a necessity of the consumers.
“It has to do with trends and how they turn trends into such short-lived things to be replaced,” said Doreptow-Kovacs, professor of fashion at the SCAD Institute. “And because they are set at such low price points, people don’t even think twice.”
The practice of fast fashion — at some of the lowest costs — employs synthetic, cheap fibers and low-paid workers to manufacture cheap goods to be pumped out to serve the greater consumer population with styles that trend in and out by the seasons. This system proves beneficial to the average consumer and the manufacturer — decreasing the cost of production and retail.
From the designer point of view, fast fashion is stripping the industry of individuality with the focus on the trend, fashion student Layne Barron said.
“[Fast fashion] has turned the industry into less of an art,” said Barron, who is attending the Fashion Institute of Technology after graduating from Wando in 2018. “Historically, fashion was about uniqueness, hand crafted and intricate design of the garment, hours of labor going into it. But now you see a trend and you want to copy it, mimic it, get it out as fast as possible.”
However, some designers and brands have been finding innovative ways to side-step the vicious cycle of “trends.” The sustainable fashion movement has gained speed from select designers and initiatives from select brands.
“The fashion and textile industry is often called the most polluting industry that we have.” Barron said. “So sustainable fashion is about limiting that and doing practices that are more environmentally friendly.”
As well as being conscious about their environmental footprint, sustainable brands are also changing their labor sources. Fair-trade and cruelty free movements are infiltrating the fashion industry. Sustainable brands use transparency as a key foundation to their marketing to display these efforts.
However, one of the burdens that fall on the consumer is the price.
Prices of sustainable products are higher than those of fast fashion brands. Where a pair of jeans at H&M could range from $9.99 to $24.99, a pair of sustainable, quality and ethically-sourced pair of jeans from Reformation ranges from $98 to $128.
For the majority of the consumer base in America who are accustomed to purchasing products at such a low rate, are not able, financially, to see this transition into sustainable fashion through.
But the high prices of the pieces are most of the time matched by the quality of the garment. A large responsibility on the shoulders of the consumer is to “hold on to [the] pieces” and to “wear them out” to take full advantage of the cost, Treptow-Kovacs said.
A sustainable garment is an investment — an investment into the future of the environment, laborers abroad, the success of the brand and a long-lasting quality garment.
“You should judge a garment as someone you are going on a date with,” Treptow-Kovacs said.
“You know, is this someone I want to bring home to introduce to my family… Is this a one time
fling? Or is this [a product] I want to invest in a relationship?”