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Why Fast Fashion is So Harmful

Why Fast Fashion is So Harmful

The only obvious harm a $5 skirt and two for $10 shirts might be causing you personally is a cluttered closet (which, side note, actually can do a number on your mental health, but that’s a topic for another day). But the impact fast fashion has on the planet and on people throughout its supply chain is mind-boggling.

It’s estimated that only two percent of garment workers worldwide earn a liveable wage; the other 98 percent are often paid under minimum wage or, even worse, sometimes not paid at all for their labor. How does this happen? Well, fast fashion brands typically don’t produce their goods themselves. Instead, they contract suppliers (often in developing countries) to manufacture large orders with tight deadlines to keep up with the hectic pace of trends and an accelerated collection calendar. These manufacturers frequently outsource production to subcontractors, which are often unregulated and have no agreement with the original company. Exploitive practices and sweatshop conditions are commonplace, yet the fast fashion brand itself is removed from any blame because they aren’t directly employing the garment workers. 


Beyond the exploitation of workers through unfair wages, it’s not unusual for factory conditions to be extremely unsafe. The infamous Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 claimed the lives of over 1,000 individuals. But despite public outrage, fast fashion continues to fuel the existence of unsafe factories — very little has changed in the last decade.


Hass, Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion, Fast Fashion Industry


The fast fashion industry also wreaks havoc on the environment. Business Insider reported in 2019 that fashion makes up 10 percent of all carbon emissions. In addition, clothing manufacturing swallows up the equivalent of 37 million Olympic swimming pools worth of water each year, is the second most polluting industry of water due to toxic chemicals used during production, and sheds millions of microplastics when synthetic materials are washed by consumers. 

Another issue? Fast fashion companies are producing such exorbitant quantities of clothing they can’t even sell it all. Multiple brands have been publicly criticized for destroying unsold merchandise rather than selling it at a discount, going so far as to burn newly made apparel. Even companies who opt to donate unsold items are problematic. It’s been revealed that excess apparel shipments (both new and secondhand) from Western countries have negative economic effects on the local garment industries where they end up. 


Luckily, legislation like California's Garment Worker Protection Act, that went into affect January 1, 2022, is seeking to make the fashion industry more fair and safe for workers. Under the law, companies are no longer allowed to pay per completed piece (as was the industry standard). Now, they're required to pay workers an hourly rate no less than minimum wage as well as keep detailed records of wages, hours worked, orders, contracts, and more to help improve working conditions for garment workers. 


The law is creating change not just in California, but across the industry, too. New York, that ranks among the fashion capitals of the world, recently announced the Fashion Sustainability and Social Justice Act. If passed, the law would require apparel and footwear companies that generate more than $100 million a year in revenues to provide insight into their supply chains as well as disclose environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and chemical production. Brands will also be required to disclose median wages for workers and measures they've taken to ensure responsible business practices and policies. Fines for brands that don't comply will be put in a community fund and used for environmental justice projects in the state.  


Fast Fashion, Slow Fashion, Hass, Fast Fashion Industry


That’s why Hass is a slow fashion brand. We’ve chosen to design sustainable and ethically made clothing with planet-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic (CU863637) cotton, organic wool, renewable alpaca, and Lenzing-certified modal because it’s better for you, our workers, and the environment. 

These textiles may have a higher price tag, but when you take into account the high cost fast fashion has on the planet’s resources and humanity’s collective well-being, it’s always worth it.

Share your favorite piece of Hass apparel with us by tagging @hassapparel on Instagram.