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What is Fast Fashion and Why is it Harmful?

Most of us grew up in the fashion era; some might argue that we’re still in it. Although, people seem to be waking up to this type of consumption, thankfully. It looks as if, and is our hope, fast fashion, or any exploitative fashion is on its way out. Before continuing, we should probably discuss what fast fashion is and how it’s a precursor for ethical, sustainable, and or vegan fashion, which are not all the same. Hopefully, this article clarifies what these terms mean, where they began, and where the future is headed.

What is ‘fast fashion,’ and why is it not sustainable?

Fast fashion is a popular buzz phrase commonly found within the world of sustainability. It refers to the design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapid production. Nothing else matters. This type of garment and accessory production utilizes a copycat technique otherwise known as ‘trend replication’ that recreates existing designs with low-quality materials and sells them to the public. This method exploits the workers involved in this type of production because making cheap garments means paying close to nothing for their labor. Still, it also emphasizes turn-over rather than durability and quality. Affordable and trendy fast fashion has caused physical harm to our environment and psychological damage to consumers. It has directly led to a broad industry movement towards overconsumption.

Fast fashion pieces fall apart and are often thrown away after only a few washes. Sweaters pill, shirts lose their shape, bottoms droop, and shoes break. If you shop at stores like H&M, Zara, Topshop, or Fashion Nova, to name a few, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Companies like these sell clothing and accessories at dirt cheap prices but keep you coming back for more. They bank on consumers buying multiple garments a year, not just one or two. This is how they make their money. They value quantity over quality and you, the consumer, end up paying a higher price in the long run despite paying lower prices.

If you’d like to learn more about the fast fashion industry, check out the “The True Cost” documentary.” This documentary shot by journalist Lucy Siegle is eye-opening. In the film, she says,” Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying”, a statement that has been widely quoted.

What’s the difference between sustainable, ethical, and vegan fashion, and why are they so easily confused?

Sustainable vs. Slow Fashion

Although sometimes used interchangeably, these two terms are not the same. However, both involve a model meant to curb harm being done to the planet.

In 1987, the UN described sustainability as

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable fashion may also refer to a design model that ensures that the life cycle of a garment is long. Sometimes, this includes using recycled materials. On the other hand, slow fashion generally refers to the garment’s style, design, and quality. Not to mention the intention behind making said attire. Slow fashion contrasts fast fashion.

In light of this definition, sustainable fashion refers to a more environmentally-friendly approach to designing, manufacturing, and consuming clothes, making sure we cause little to no harm to our planet and don’t use up all its natural resources. Sustainable fashion also focuses on extending the life of clothes, using recycled materials, and recycling in general.

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, read our article on What is Slow Fashion?

Vegan vs. Ethical Fashion

Now that we have discussed fast fashion and its origins and sustainable and slow fashion, we can now move on to the latest terms used within the industry, vegan and ethical. We can also add ‘cruelty-free’ into the mix to make it slightly more complicated. Just kidding, let’s break it down together.

What Is Vegan Fashion  by Good On You states:

“In the fashion industry, there is less of a distinction between the terms “vegan” and “cruelty-free” for the simple reason that there is no obligation to carry out animal testing for apparel and accessories. So in fashion, the terms tend to be used interchangeably.”

Here they compare the terms used within fashion vs. the beauty industry. What is important to note is that although they might be very different within other sectors for this article, which is specific to clothing and accessories, they can be used interchangeably.

Vegan and cruelty-free fashion refer to garments, bags, and shoes that abstain from using animals in their production. Vegan fashion is specific to animals and does not necessarily include the social impact within the fashion industry, whereas ethical fashion does. Ethical fashion covers many issues such as wages, working conditions, health, and safety regulations, and forced and child labor.

Vegan and ethical are two terms that communicate opposition to exploitation. The former is specific to animals, whereas the latter is to humans. However, it is essential to note that serious vegan brands are also ethical and sustainable. The vegan movement looks to improve the fashion industry holistically. This involves using sustainable materials, ethical sourcing and working conditions, and abstaining from using animals.

How to Move Forward

Unfortunately, companies have noticed that people are now looking toward a greener, more ethical options. So they’ve decided to latch one to one of the words mentioned above to cater to the conscious consumer. Not all terms are the same, and it is important to differentiate what they mean to shop better and greener.

At Liv&Grace, we look to combine all aspects of slow and ethical fashion. We ensure that the brands found on our platform take the well-being of humans, animals, and Earth into account. Ditch fast fashion and shop sustainably, ethically, and slowly with us!