Issues and Challenges

Fast vs. Sustainable: The Cost of Fashion!

Fast fashion is a huge contributor to the throwaway culture, where consumers throw out unused items instead of recycling or donating them. 


SALE, SALE, SALE”. These three words send jitters down our spine, even in the comfortable environment of our living rooms. As soon as we get this notification, without having a second thought our eyes get glued to the phone screen, and we start scrolling up and down for the items we need, and in most cases, items we don’t need. Without sparing a single thought for the clothes we already have hanging in our closets or shoes and accessories that we already have, we are in a rush to buy as many items as we can because they might get out of stock soon. Well, that is the whole idea of sales ­— the faster the item goes out of their outlet, the faster they will introduce the new collection that we will again rush to get our hands on.
Fashion is addictive, it is cyclical and it is moving very fast. Sometimes it is our need, other times it is just our greed. Clothing sales have doubled since 2000 in Pakistan. With the emergence of a plethora of new brands in the market and people becoming more conscious of them, the competition has gotten intense. As corporations in the fashion industry capitalize on increased turnover and consumers are busy reaping the benefits of lowered prices, we fail to see the mammoth cost to the environment that this trend comes at. 
Until recently, the fashion industry was fairly sustainable but modern-day fashion retailers have adopted the phenomenon of ‘fast fashion’ which has made our wardrobe changes fast as well. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass market in response to the latest trends. The hazards of fast fashion are uncountable and it is time that we, especially women, think about our choices. Apart from emptying our banks, the fashion industry has a disastrous impact on the environment. In fact, it is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry. The environmental damage is increasing as tons of textile waste ends up in landfills. 
According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make just one cotton shirt. In an attempt to save water, the textile industry shifted towards making clothes out of polyester. Polyester manufacturers generally argue that polyester does not have any water footprint, as it consumes less water compared to natural fibres. But again, this isn’t a very safe choice. When we look at the production process of polyester, the Carbon emissions it releases are three times more than those released in the production of cotton textile. What makes it even more perilous for our environment is that polyester does not break down when discarded. According to WWF Pakistan, the textile industry in our country utilizes more water than is actually required after which the chemical waste is left untreated and discharged into local water bodies. When we are already on verge of facing absolute water scarcity by 2040, this cost is too much to pay. 
Fast fashion is a huge contributor to the  throwaway culture, where consumers throw out unused items instead of recycling or donating them. Many companies with corporate social responsibility strategies are exploring ways to solve the fast fashion and throwaway culture crises and this has led to the concept of sustainable fashion. Sustainability is about slowness, care, and responsibility. It is more about meeting today’s needs while ensuring to meet future needs as well. The main difference between sustainable fashion and fast fashion is the waste production element. While buying fast fashion can be extremely affordable, it is important to think about the quality of the clothing that is being purchased. Sustainable fashion is expensive but the higher quality makes it last longer. It can be preserved and can be passed on to generations. Another way of sustaining is to recycle or to donate the items. Recycling your clothes and shoes, etc., helps save the natural resources that go into their manufacture and reduce the pollution that it results in.
The Pakistani fashion industry is apparently slow concerning sustainability, awareness, and reform stratagem but there are a few brands practicing it; those that have begun to understand the responsibility they have towards the environment have devised ways to address this important concern. 
Fashion is fun, it is how you celebrate your individuality, it is the facet of your personality you show to society, and it defines your persona. It is not easy to give up on something that plays such a huge role in your daily life but remember it also has a huge environmental consequence. If we are going to tackle the existential threat of climate change, the fashion industry needs to urgently address its unsustainable practices and we need to ponder on our choices. 
If we do not start to address the negative impacts of the fashion industry soon, we are not going to have any industry. Not only does fast fashion distort our sense of value, but it has also become a mind set to buy more. This mind set will cost our future generations more than we can imagine. Cheap prices make us believe we are saving money, but actually, we are just buying more. If you choose the path of sustainability, not only will it help maintain your budget but you will also be doing a huge favour to the future generations for which they will be thankful. Next time, if there is an urge to buy more, do remember Lucy Siegle’s thoughtful words: “Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying.” HH


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