“Fast fashion takes a toll on the consumer mind-set and the environment,” said Elizabeth Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.” “The low-price driven fashion trend has shifted shopping patterns from seasonal to disposable.”
Cline showed a slide from an H&M Twitter feed that said “New Week New Outfit” as an example of the fast-fashion approach that creates too many clothes and an unmanageable waste stream. She said research shows that women make 236 apparel purchases annually and wear only 38, and that “the majority of purchases are worn only seven times.”
“The flip side is an environmental crises in textile waste,” Cline said.
She noted that $705 million worth of clothing, or 38 million pounds, are shipped abroad every year to places like Nairobi, Kenya, by charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. In addition, 80 percent of textile and apparel purchases, or 21 billion pounds, wind up in landfills every year.
“It’s imperative to shift consumer behavior,” Cline added.
Maxine Bedat, cofounder of Zady and a former human rights lawyer, admitted that she “was that fast-fashion consumer.”
Bedat said on Zady.com, “in every case we looked at quality versus quantity…about buying fewer, but better things.”
Zady.com believes in the “citizen consumer” she said. Its “manifesto” equates fast fashion to fast food, “empty calories that make us feel full.” Fast fashion is also related to “Rivers full of toxic chemicals, closets full of disposable wear…[and] landfills full of yesterday’s garments.”
Kirsten Brodde, project lead of the Greenpeace Detox Campaign, explained that the program asks big companies to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their manufacturing supply chain.
Since the Detox Campaign began in 2011, Brodde said 66 companies have committed and begun to do so, driven by an overall policy change in the way to manufacture the fashions. These companies include Adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Burberry and Zara.
She noted that there are 3,500 chemicals in the making of textiles, 10 percent of which are found to be hazardous to human health and the environment.
“The textile industry is the second-largest polluter of fresh water in the world,” she said, citing the dyeing and finishing process as the biggest problem while showing slides of such factories in China. “We’re trying to protest against these practices all over the world. Just compliance with laws doesn’t protect against pollution.”
She cited a recent court decision against three companies in Indonesia for their wastewater pollution.
The aims of the Detox Campaign includes toxic-free production by 2020 and a responsible policy for the whole life cycle of the textile and apparel industry, even after end use.
“The Detox Campaign is not about working against the companies and the industry, but working with them,” Brodde said.
As part of its holding the fashion industry accountable, the campaign produces and annual “Detox Catwalk” ranking of best and worst companies in this area, the next of which is due out next month. It also publishes detailed research reports, the latest one on the outerwear sector and its use of PFCs in performance additives and efforts to phase those out.
Brodde noted that Zara, Adidas and Levi’s were the subject of protests before they committed to Detox.
She agreed that fast fashion is the “root cause” that has led to need for the Detox Campaign.
“The production system that’s needed for fast-fashion companies and their relationship to the contractors is problematic,” she said. “But progress is coming from fast-fashion brands at a faster pace than luxury brands.”
She said some solutions are the “sharing movement” that includes clothes-swapping parties, a “Buy-Nothing Day” in Hong Kong, the Slow Fashion Movement emphasizing craftsmanship, local production and longevity in clothes, and Eco Store, a list the campaign has collected and posted on its web site.