Speed Above All: Fast Fashion And Its Effect On The World

Photo Credit: Ecotextile News

Fast fashion. A concept that countless consumers contribute to, but not all are really aware of the negative impact it has on not only employees working in sweatshops in LCCs (low cost countries) to produce the masses, but the effect it has on the environment and the future at the end of the garment’s life cycle. In contrast, at El Interior, we focus on providing our customers with classic, timeless and essential pieces. The importance of durable and washable sustainable garments is often overlooked in this day and age, but slow and safe fashion is a concept we strongly believe in

We know trends change every season at a very quick pace, but the fast fashion industry works at extreme speeds to keep up with fads and constantly changing styles. Recently, a new concept called “ultra fast fashion” has developed. It is a notion that challenged and surpassed fast fashion itself; granting consumers instant gratification for trendy attire at a much quicker speed. According to the article Just How Fast is Ultra-Fast Fashion, by Omnilytics, “speed holds the highest importance for consumers. In fact, the need for everything new has challenged the ability of even the swiftest retailers to produce trends at lightning speed.” A need for speed is an understatement when it comes to fast fashion. As the saying goes, “All good things come with time,” however, fast fashion is not one of those good things. 

The impact fast fashion has had, and continues to have, on the labor force in LCCs like China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam is truly saddening. Labourers are working in extremely harsh, dangerous environments and are victims of wage theft and exploitation. Furthermore, child labor is extremely common in the garment industry. They face working conditions in factories that are, at best, inhospitable, and at worst, inhumane. When a company is generating mass production at these levels, there is no other convenience than sourcing from low cost countries. Less cost for more product at a faster rate.  

Recounting the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, where 1,100 workers were killed and another 2,500 were injured when the factory collapsed due to a structural failure. In the article How Fast Fashion Is Destroying The Planet, by the New York Times, Tatiana Schlossberg explains that “between 2006 and 2012, more than 500 Bangladeshi garment workers died in factory fires.” The Rana Plaza catastrophe was widely covered. She claims that it “diminished Americans’ appetites for cheap clothing.” According to Schlossberg, that same year Americans “spent $340 billion on fashion,” and “much of it was produced in Bangladesh, some of it by Rana Plaza workers in the days leading up to the collapse.”

In addition to the devastating effect fast fashion has on garment workers, the impact it has on our environment at the end of the garment’s life cycle is just as disappointing. Schlossberg goes on to affirm that “more than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), it will not decay.” 

Fast fashion brands do not design their clothing to last, they design it to sell. As consumers, we need to rethink when we are tempted to shop for less and instead, shop ethically. The answer to creating a sustainable wardrobe is not to throw everything away and start from scratch, nor is it to stop buying clothing all together. It’s the small changes that will add up to a big difference. According to The Importance Of Sustainable Fashion In A Sustainable World written by Emma Foster, “by switching the demand towards second hand or sustainably and ethically made clothing, pressure can be applied to fast fashion brands to improve their production methods.” By choosing good quality sustainable-made clothing from companies who practice slow fashion and who try to minimize the environmental “footprint,” we can prolong the lifespan of clothing, preventing it from becoming waste. At El Interior, we sell our beautiful Guatemalan vintage huipiles that have been conserved as far back as 50-70 years ago. We are proud to provide our customers with recycled fashion that is handcrafted and truly one-of-a-kind.

Weaver, Doña Ofelia and her loom

El Interior’s clothing is sourced from mostly indigenous women working in their homes and villages, and setting their own hours. They are often part of extended families or cooperatives and come from where a greater community awareness has raised the issues of fair monetary returns for the generous amount of time spent crafting the beautiful garments. Some of our handwoven huipiles take two, three and even four months to weave.

The making of a handmade garment, whether it is being woven on a back-strap loom, treadle loom or hand embroidered, uses symbols or designs passed down from generation to generation from their ancient pre-hispanic cultures. In some cases, ethnic groups such as the Amusgos, Huave and the Mixtec along the Pacific coast, compare the designs to a “codex”.  The geometric symbols or designs express deep cultural and universal values of their communities. It depicts their connection to the land they come from and their ethics and morals and the communities “universal world view” traceable back to their pre Hispanic culture. An example of this is when Amusgos weaver Odilon Merino Morales explained to us on one of his Austin visits that a particular design represented the paw prints of the Jaguar going through the jungle. The jaguar is gathering  strength from the vitality of the wild jungle and is also exchanging some of the jaguar’s energy and strength with the wild healthy plants. The zig zag designs represent the serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, and is also a symbol for water, which is very precious in agricultural communities. Other designs represent the squash plant in blossom, the corn plants growing, a particular village’s “mountain” or mountain ranges, and on it goes according to qualities and values that give a culture a sense of place, and a unified world view.

Embroideress, Doña Rebecca demonstrating her craft

Fast fashion is something we have all taken part in at some point, but we encourage you to take a step back from it and consider other alternatives that could ultimately make a much needed positive change in our environment. This critical change all starts with us and only us. It comes down to being mindful about where and how we buy. Make the choice to be apart of this revolution. A change that will benefit not only our generation, but those to come.

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