Fashion is not only one of the biggest industries in the world but also the second largest polluter behind oil, primarily due to fast fashion. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Contrary to the idea that people dress for four different seasons, fast fashion brings new styles to stores at such a fast rate that it creates 52 micro-seasons. Brands well-known in the fast fashion department are H&M, Zara and Forever 21 – many popular stores amongst their targeted audience of young women. Each store has the same goal: to fuel the demand and desire to constantly “need” new clothing.
Although the cheap prices and trendy items are tempting, it is all too good to be true. The mass amount of clothing made is destroying our environment faster than ever before. A single piece of clothing goes through a long process entailing textile manufactures, various suppliers, raw materials, quality checks, global and domestic shipping, retail and eventually the discarding of an item. The disposal process produces an immense amount of emissions and waste. According to the Climate Action Business Association, 120 million trees are cut down, 40 billion pounds of cotton are produced and 50,000 pounds of dye enter the water system every year.
Fast fashion alone produces 150 billion pieces of clothing per year and 80 billion pieces in turn end up flooding landfills. The cheap and unsustainable materials cause the items to be worn a handful of times and not cherished as clothing should be. However, certain stores are aiming to change this all-too-common cycle.
H&M, a well-known brand and fast-fashion retailer, has taken it upon itself to ensure that products are manufactured under good working conditions with particular care for the environment. H&M has consistently provided sustainable basics and created an initiative to return reusable used clothing to local stores.
In April, H&M released their Conscious Exclusive collection featuring upscale and well-made clothing to counter the ideal that all fast fashion companies have to simply create cheap clothing. Not only do they offer a wide array of unique patterns and styles, but they also transform citrus peel, pineapple leaves and algae biomass into the garments. The materials are able to build sustainable pieces while restoring the environment throughout the entire manufacturing process.
While H&M’s line gives back to the environment, it also draws inspiration from nature. Their website sheds light saying, “Our designers have taken inspiration from the wonders of Mother Earth – its life, vivid colors and healing powers.” Embracing the femininity found in Mother Earth, they aim to liberate the women who wear them as well.
Possibly in the years to come it won’t be uncommon to see brands following in H&M’s footsteps. But for now, it is important to know where your clothes are coming from and what materials they are made of. Saving the earth can begin with you, and in terms of the fashion industry, it can start in your closet.