The world of fashion is constantly evolving. As designers release collection after collection of stylish and modern trends, people work more quickly than ever to find their own versions of couture styles and recreate the styles of the runway in their own wardrobes.
Fast fashion, the process of quickly reproducing runway or popular fashions in mass quantities and distributing them to other retailers, is responsible for the majority of many people’s wardrobes, but how much do you actually know about what goes on as part of your fast fashion process?
Read on to learn the most important fast fashion facts that you should be aware of.
15 Fast Fashion Facts You Should Be Aware Of
1. 80 billion new articles of clothing are purchased every year.
This is a massive amount of clothing; the equivalent of thirteen million tons of chemical-treated fabric and thread that is manufactured and distributed anew every single year.
Regardless of the amount of clothing that recirculates, is reused, or is recycled, there’s still about eighty billion clothing articles going home with consumers (and that doesn’t even count the clothing that’s made but not purchased).
2. Garment workers are one of the largest employment sectors in the world.
It’s estimated that there are over 40 million garment workers in factories worldwide, making clothing and fashion one of the largest employment industries in modern history.
However, just because there’s a lot of them doesn’t mean that they’re valued: garment workers experience some of the worst working conditions in modern history.
3. Many fast fashion workers can’t afford to feed themselves.
This is a serious example of the decline in working conditions that are common in the textile industry.
Many garment workers are not protected by unions or other workplace arrangements, and their work in overseas factories often subjects them to dangerous and unfair working conditions that can traumatize them if they’re not fully supported.
In Bangladesh, one of the most popular countries for textile production, nine out of ten workers reported they routinely skip meals or go into debt because they cannot afford food for themselves or their families.
4. Polyester fiber is the most common textile fiber in fast fashion clothing production, but it comes at a huge cost.
The polyester fiber that makes up many fast fashion clothing (think everything from t-shirts to socks and shoes) is a popular staple in fast fashion because of its reliable and consistent performance and ability to withstand wear.
However, it comes with a huge environmental impact: it takes over 200 years for polyester fibers to fully decompose, meaning that your latest clothing purchase will sit in a landfill for two centuries before it can be fully dissolved.
5. Your fast fashion clothing is made to fall apart.
If you’ve ever worried that your fast fashion purchase doesn’t seem to last very long, then you’re noticing that your clothing is doing exactly its intended purpose.
Fast fashion clothing is designed on a model known as “Planned Obsolescence,” or the idea that if clothing is made intentionally uncomfortable or in poor quality, it will break faster and you’ll have to buy more garments.
6. Your t-shirt and jeans required more than 20,000 liters of water to produce.
A single kilogram of cotton can make approximately one pair of t-shirt and one jeans, maybe a little less depending on the sizing of the material. Every kilogram of cotton requires a little over 20,000 liters of water to produce, the equivalent of a large pool or roughly the same amount of water you might drink over a period of 20 years.
Fast fashion companies drain the equivalent of hundreds of lakes’ worth of water every year in their production strategies.
7. Cotton is laden with heavy chemicals.
Cotton production accounts for the majority of pesticide use throughout the world. 18% of worldwide pesticide use is directly connected to cotton production, and 25% of overall insecticide use is also linked to cotton, which makes up a majority of fast fashion clothing.
Every piece of fast fashion clothing you’re wearing is likely doused in chemicals through and through.
8. 90% of donated clothing ends up in the landfill.
Many people have turned to thrift store donations or charity shops as a way to repurpose clothing they’ve grown out of, but even thrift store clothing patterns aren’t a guaranteed way to recycle your clothes.
Just 10% of donated clothing is eventually sold or rehomed, leaving 90% to end up directly in the landfill when it’s done.
9. 85% of the current plastic pollution in the ocean is from fast fashion.
Fast fashion produces a variety of fibers known as microfibers or synthetic fibers. These fibers do not dissolve or break down easily, so even when they’re recycled or destroyed the fibers are still needing to be disposed of.
The fibers usually end up in local water sources and are transported to the ocean, where they kill fish and wildlife.
10. The average person wears just 70-80% of their closet.
Many people only wear about three quarters of the clothes in their closet, but that doesn’t stop them from continuing to purchase new clothing.
Experts estimate that there’s about $500 worth of unworn clothing in every person’s closet that will likely never be worn but will go right to landfills.
11. Fast fashion garments produce 400% times more carbon emissions than other materials.
Fast fashion garments are a powerful source of environmental pollution. Every fast fashion garment that’s produced creates up to 400% more carbon than any other piece of clothing, which is especially powerful when you remember that fast fashion garments are designed to be worn less than 40 times in total before being thrown out.
12. Less than ten percent of major fast fashion brands pay their workers a living wage.
Fast fashion workers are primarily concentrated in India, China, Indonesia, and other developing nations where factories can be made cheaply and there are less restrictions on workers’ rights agreements.
Between seven and nine percent of fast fashion brands pay their workers a wage they can support themselves on; the remaining percentage pay them less than a bare minimum wage that often cannot support families despite that being their only source of income.
13. The fashion industry is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions.
Everything from the production means to the manufacturing and sale of clothing produces a tremendous amount of carbon emissions; up to 8% of global carbon emissions worldwide can be directly linked to the global fashion industry.
14. The average individual throws away close to 100 pounds of clothing a year.
Those one hundred pounds of clothing go directly into landfills, where it can take them over 200 years to decompose and synthetic fibers are drained immediately into oceans, rivers, and other water sources.
15. Three out of five fast-fashion pieces of clothing go directly into landfills.
Whether they’re being disposed of because no one bought them, tossed out because they tore or wore out quickly, or simply aren’t worn, over sixty percent of fast fashion ends up in a landfill over time.
Fast fashion is a popular but dangerous part of the fashion industry with numerous threats to environmental and workers’ rights. Make sure you’re informed about all the impacts of fast fashion before you commit to buying another piece of clothing!