Written by Amaranila Nariswari, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Trendy, chic, and easy-to-wear describe the fast-fashion industry really well. In some countries, fast-fashion stores sell relatively cheap clothing pieces while at the same time they’re still considered as the trend-setter in the fashion industry. How do they sell so much stuff at once yet manage to sell them at such low prices? One of the secrets behind their success lies in creating and delivering their products to us, their customers. Ever heard about the global supply chain?
Basically, a global supply chain is a network of organizations and processes where several corporations–this includes suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and even retailers–collaborate as one chain, doing production process to distribution, until the products reach the hands of the consumers (Ivanov et al., 2017). The point of this supply chain thing is to provide consumers with the products they want of good quality FAST, following the fast-changing trends. Companies even have a system for tracking the trend and use the services of forecasting companies all over the world to search for new trends or ideas (Matic & Vabale, 2015). Anyway the point of this article is not about the global supply chain. I want you to learn about the wicked side of the fast fashion industry, especially about greenwashing. But before that, let’s discuss how badly impactful the fast fashion industry is to understand why greenwashing exists!
First, it is no secret that the fast-fashion industry pollutes a lot. To create cheap products, they tend to use inexpensive materials. The polyester they use is obtained from fossil fuels, contributing to global warming. At the same time, the cheap textile dyes are toxic and harmful and pollute our clean water (Rauturier, 2021). Don’t forget, this is fast fashion, which means the longevity of clothes is also fast, causing the increasing number of cloth waste every year. Did you know that fast-fashion contributes BIG to textile waste? In the fashion industry, textile wastes are divided into two categories: pre-consumers, including cut clothes which could no longer be used in the production process, and post-consumers, when the owner of the clothes throw them away when they feel like their clothes are outdated, too small, or torn.
Second, not only does it harm the environment, but there’s also the human cost of its production. To cut the production cost, companies usually go to lower to middle-income countries like Bangladesh in Southeast Asia and Chad in Central Africa while searching for cheap labor. Companies make contracts with the workers to supply the products they sell, but those workers are underpaid and don’t have their rights protected while working in a dangerous environment (Rauturier, 2021). Sometimes even they employ underage workers. Whether the big guys in the company know that those workers are working under illegal conditions or not, they’re responsible for not paying attention to it.
Sure, these days, companies are more aware of the sustainability of their products regarding the growing value of sustainable development globally. The definition of sustainable development itself ranges depending on who you ask. However, its essence emerges from the concept of Triple Bottom Line, implying the balance between three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic sustainability (Klarin, 2018). However, it is sad to see that most companies working in fast-fashion industries only focus on the environment, and even that is not enough.
If you look closely at the tags of the clothing pieces, sometimes companies put ‘eco-friendly’ signs. Maybe it’s written like ‘made from recycled materials‘ or ‘sustainable production,’ but are those products really eco-friendly? How many percent of their products are produced using recycled materials? And how much recycled materials do they really use in a single piece of clothing? Such eco-friendly tags are what we call greenwashing. According to Greenpeace, greenwashing attempts to form any public or consumer opinion into thinking that their products are environmentally friendly. It pushes the buyers into thinking that by purchasing their products, they are contributing to the planet’s well-being, too.
Maybe some of you reading this article have just bought things from the fast-fashion industry last weekend and think ‘oops i just did something bad, didn’t I?’ or ‘did I just get myself greenwashed?’, it’s fine though, I wouldn’t blame you if those eco-friendly slogans got you before. But from now on, I want you to do your research before going shopping. It’s not hard to find information regarding your favorite shops on the internet. Better, you can search for a real environmentally friendly brand to shop for in the future, stores focusing on giving real impact to the environment instead of putting the word ‘green’ everywhere while in fact, they are not.
Don’t worry too much about the clothes you just bought. It is called fast fashion because the trends keep on changing, and people are competing to be the first to lay their hands on the products. You can change that habit by not throwing your clothes after only a couple of uses. Old clothes can look good if you know how to style them, you know, vintage.
Seriously, though, mixing and matching your old clothes could be a fun thing to do to spend your time. If you need some refreshment, you can go to thrift stores and find some magic hidden in their pile of used garments. One piece of clothing can be used several times to make different styles. Like a blazer, you can wear it formally if you match it with a shirt and skirt or cloth pants with belt, necklace, and a clutch bag as accessories, but you can also wear a blazer on top of a t-shirt and shorts, and match it with sneakers to make it casual, depending on what look do you want to present at the moment. Fun, right! I see you’ve already started imagining what you can do with your old clothes now, so I’ll leave you here, bye!
Ivanov, Dmitry et al. (2017). Global Supply Chain and Operations Management: a Decision-Oriented Introduction to the Creation of Value. Switzerland: Springer.
Klarin, T. (2018). The Concept of Sustainable Development: From its Beginning to the Contemporary Issues. Zagreb International Review of Economics and Business21(1):67-94. DOI:10.2478/zireb-2018-0005
Matic, M. & Vita Vabale. (2015). Understanding internationalization patterns of Zara. Master’s Thesis, Department of Business Management, Aalborg, Denmark: Aalborg University.
Rauturier, S. (2021). What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It So Bad?. Good on You. Retrieved from https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/