by Trisha Mae Giron
Clothing is indeed a need, but through recent years, the want for style and continuous consumption has become an overwhelmingly growing trend. In the fashion world today, the two-season shopping calendar is practically gone. It can be said that a cycle of a „season“ occurs for up to more than fifty times a year. With more than 80 billion articles of clothing consumed a year, „fast fashion“ continues to prevail in the market.
There are many factors that contribute to the creation of a piece of clothing such as obtaining resources, transporting raw materials and finished products, and using chemical substances in the process of production. With billions of clothes produced per year, an incredibly abundant amount of resources, energy, and chemicals are used–and in many ways, wasted. Annually, each American person is responsible for about 84 pounds (about 38 kilograms) of textile waste.
While the accumulation of waste after consumption is overwhelming as it is, it should not be disregarded that the phase of production is responsible for a great fraction of negative environmental effects caused by the clothing industry. For instance, Bangladesh, a major center for clothing production, generates about 56 billion liters of contaminated water from textile production alone. This water freely flows out of factories with little to no filtering or treatment, causing the surrounding areas to be seriously polluted.
On top of the harmful effects on the environment, the clothing industry’s production sites in countries such as Bangladesh and China have a reputation for inducing slave-like labor. By having products manufactured in such counties, main companies save on production costs due to much lesser labor and material costs. With the immensely large demand for clothing today, an increase in factory and manufacturing labor must also follow. Nonetheless, as illustrated by the recent Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, working conditions are often not taken into careful consideration. To an extent, quantity and speed of production are being prioritized over the quality of both the products and the many workers‘ safety and conditions.
With all of these factors, the fashion industry has increasingly become „toxic“ to both the environment and people involved. Many consumers often prioritize typical factors–such as style, quantity, and price–but not much people are aware or take into consideration the vast and negative effects of the industry. Continuously buying bargain or cheap clothing, or simply binge shopping, may be seen as an indirect support towards the existing negative conducts.
As shopping is a hobby of increasing popularity, it may be time to remind ourselves to be responsible buyers. Impulse, leisure, and impractical shopping cause the increasing demand in the fashion industry. Much too often, people forget to stop and think, „Do I really need this?“
As consumers with a better knowledge of the effects of the industry, shopping responsibly and practically can only help alleviate the huge and underlying problem that is toxic fashion.