The fashion world presents a new collection. A few weeks later, imitations of that collection are on sale in shops like H&M and Zara for affordable prices. Many people buy clothes from this collection, wear them a few times, and then throw them away. This is all a result of the $100-billion industry known as ‘fast fashion’, which is one of the world’s biggest pollutants.

The rise of fast fashion

The reason why fashion is so destructive is because of the enormous volume of clothes that are being cheaply produced and then discarded months or even weeks later. In the past, things were very different: fewer items were being produced, of a much greater quality, and most people only bought clothes occasionally and wore them for many years. In the late 20th century, however, clothes became cheaper to produce, and for many people, shopping for clothes changed from being a necessity to being a hobby. 

Fast Fashion

A major pollutant

Today, the global fashion industry creates 8 to 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Much of its negative impact comes from its use of natural resources, which includes the 340 million barrels of oil a year needed to produce synthetic materials like polyester, and the forty million tonnes of chemicals required for production processes such as dying textiles. 

The online retailer Shein

Many retailers engage in fast fashion. Some, however, are accused of engaging in ultra-fast fashion. Founded in China in 2008, Shein is an online retailer that introduces up to ten thousand new items a day on its website. It has become popular among young people all over the world, not only for its enormous selection but also for its cheap prices: it sells clothes for as little as $3 per item. Valued at around $65 billion, Shein accounts for half of all fast-fashion sales, and it is extremely controversial. As well as fuelling a destructive industry, it has been accused of engaging in illegal and immoral practices, including using forced labour — although the company vehemently denies it.  

Stop buying clothes!

There is a lot of pressure, particularly on young people, to wear the latest trends. However, you can stop engaging in fast fashion. You can buy sustainable clothes made from organic and recycled materials or second-hand or vintage clothes online or from charity shops. By far the best option, however, is to buy fewer clothes altogether and just wear what you have!