fashion style

Is Fast Fashion Unethical?

Fast fashion is a high-paced and profitable industry that has taken the world by storm, in both positive and negative ways. 

Consumers are drawn to fast fashion brands as they replicate high-end clothing straight off the runway with the ability to be designed and produced in a quick and low-cost manner. This allows customers to stay ahead of trends for an affordable price. 

Despite the success of fast fashion, many are turning to more sustainable brands as they uncover the dark side of fast fashion and its effect on the world. 

To help you form an opinion of fast fashion, here are some of the top benefits and drawbacks you should consider before choosing fast fashion over sustainable shopping. 

The Benefits of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion offers numerous benefits including: 

Low production costs

One of the main reasons for the success of the fast fashion sector is cheap production costs. This enables fast fashion brands to gain significant profits in quick succession. The industry actually generated 1.8 trillion dollars in 2015, compared to 1 trillion dollars in 2002, showcasing significant growth and consumer interest for fast-paced shopping. 

Fast fashion companies benefit significantly from low-cost production, as it enables them to source and manufacture products quickly in order to stay on top of trends. It also allows them to keep selling prices low to attract customers. 

Consumer convenience

The reason for fast fashion’s significant growth is due to the level of convenience it offers to consumers, as they are able to buy the latest trends with just a click of a button. They also have access to an unlimited amount of cheap clothing, which constantly changes to keep up with trends. 

Despite many retail brands suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, big names such as ASOS and Boohoo actually thrived, with ASOS publishing its quadrupled profits of a 329% increase in October due to lockdown trends such as loungewear and athleisure apparel. They are also planning to invest £90 million for a new warehouse in order to cater to increasing sales and consumer interest.

The Drawbacks of Fast Fashion

Despite fast fashion’s ability to meet customer demand in a quick and cheap manner, there are also the following disadvantages to consider:

Damaging to the environment

Did you know that the fashion industry produces 10% of CO2 emissions? It also uses 79 trillions of water per year during the manufacturing process. This negative environmental impact is mostly due to the fast fashion model, which benefits from cheap production and frequent consumerism. 

Overconsumption may benefit the fast fashion brands’ profits, but it causes significant damage to the earth. During the production stage, many fast fashion companies utilize non-renewable synthetic polymers to prolong the clothing’s lifespan. These materials release harmful gases that are 300 times more damaging than carbon dioxide, especially when produced in excessive amounts. Many have boycotted the fast fashion industry for this reason, especially younger generations who have instead turned to slower fashion alternatives and secondhand platforms such as Depop. 

Modern day slavery

What many people do not realize about fast fashion is that the clothing is actually produced in unsafe work environments that breach the Modern Day Slavery Act. Staff in insecure workplaces typically receive less than the legal minimum wage, enabling fast fashion companies to keep production costs low, at the expense of livelihoods. 

Many fast fashion brands specifically hire people without a work visa, which means they have no access to worker’s rights, and therefore, companies do not legally have to pay them minimum wage or offer them employee benefits. The irony of this is that many high profile fast fashion brands actually feature the Modern Day Slavery Act on their websites, despite many sweatshops being uncovered around the world. 

The number of migrants who work in the fast fashion industry has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to fast fashion brands experiencing growth. Many are unable to obtain citizenship due to the illegal nature of the job. This is worsened in places like the UK, where new Brexit regulations have put a stop to free movement, making it much harder for victims of modern slavery to receive the rights they deserve.

Now that you have a better understanding of how the fast fashion industry works and the pros and cons, you can now ask yourself: Is fast fashion really worth it? 

Heather Barrigan is a seasoned content writer and political correspondent from ImmiNews, who specializes in outreach, the creation of engaging, and informative immigration-related content.