The Ugly Truth: Fast Fashion Edition

Not all clothing is made equally. Some lines are committed to a piece’s eternality; its ability to transcend through decades and never go out of style or lose its durability. Other lines, many deemed under the umbrella of fast fashion, are driven by society’s hunger for newness. Fast fashion capitalizes upon our shortening attention span and increasing desire for more. By definition, fast fashion is the rapid production of trend driven clothes produced at a large scale for lower costs. This category of fashion has gained accelerated traction over the past two decades. The idea was birthed off of the desire to replicate runway fashion faster and at a more affordable price point. Brands have evolved from churning out two to four seasons to our current day reality where companies such as Zara drop over 400 new items biweekly. In theory, fast fashion is meant to democratize our freedom of self-expression by allowing everyday people to afford trench coats and puff sleeves. The inevitable catastrophe of this phenomenon: environmental degradation and ethical abuse of employees.

It is quite remarkable to reflect on the power fashion harnesses. On one hand, the industry alone contributes to 8% of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Being responsible for almost 10% of the Earth’s pollution rates tarnishes (rightfully so) the reputation of the field we at Cerer call home. As we dig deeper into what these statistics reveal about our actions as consumers and producers, the undeniable culprit emerges: fast fashion. It’s not that we’re spending more on our wardrobes, it’s that we are buying more for less. We spend <3% of our income on clothing and yet between 2000 and 2014, the amount of clothing an individual owned increased by 60%. Solely concentrating on the consumption pattern we have adopted, this statistic would not necessarily be problematic if people actually wore these clothes. But they don’t. 85% of all textiles end up in the landfill annually. It makes sense, right? If we’re buying just to partake in the trend craze at such ridiculously low prices, come next week when cowhide is no longer in style, it doesn’t pose much damage to our wallets if we discard the item. The cowhide served its purpose, and *we hope* it will not be coming back into style. The average American buys 68 new pieces a year-- half of which are worn three times or less.

What we’ve touched on so far is solely the conceptual conflict within fast fashion. We have not even scratched the surface on the environmental and social perils it presents. To make the clothes fast and at the scale they do, fast fashion brands sidestep precautionary regulations of the manufacturers such as livable wages and tolerable work conditions. Brands outsource 90% of manufacturing to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the abusive working conditions are “conveniently” overlooked due to often poor political infrastructure. Essentially, American and European conglomerates shift the environmental and social burdens experienced through production onto LMICs. These burdens are “a myriad of occupational hazards, including respiratory hazards due to poor ventilation such as cotton dust and synthetic air particulates, and musculoskeletal hazards from repetitive motion tasks.”(Environmental Health Journal). Another contributing factor to the mistreatment of these communities is the result of textile dye runoff into water sources. The water is infused with toxic chemicals that lead to miscarriages, birth defects and cancer. It should then come to no surprise that fashion is the second largest polluter of clean water. Understanding just the surface of what a $5 camo tube top from Forever 21 signifies begs us to ask the question: is it worth it?

The solution is clear: we need to slow down and buy less for more. We’re not talking Gucci loafers and Herve Leger dresses (but if that’s your jam, then by all means no judgement). It means thoughtful contemplation before a purchase, and thorough investigation into a brand’s production process (from cradle to grave). That’s where we come in. We do the research so you don’t have to. The products we offer have no expiration date: from style to wearbility. We get it, we’ve been there too, where the allure of $10 leggings is *almost* too good to pass up. Next time you feel yourself succumbing to the trap, just ask yourself: at what cost? 

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