Fast Fashion Exposed: The True Cost of Cheap Clothes

Fast Fashion Exposed: The True Cost of Cheap Clothes

– A blog post by Guest Author Rae Meyers –
Keeping up with today’s fashion trends can be as easy as clicking a button. Purchasing cheap clothing has never been more accessible as countless apps and websites
offer platforms dedicated to selling budget-friendly attire. This mass production of low-cost runway trends made from low quality material that move rapidly from design to retail stores is known as fast fashion. While updating your wardrobe to the newest style has become cheap and convenient, is fast fashion worth the real price


The Real Cost   

The fast fashion industry is one of the leading contributors to global pollution due to overproduction and consumer overconsumption, with Australia being the second highest consumer of textiles per capita globally. The Australian Fashion Council states that the country imports and manufactures 1.4 billion items of new clothing per year, with most being made from non-durable and unsustainable materials. The low cost of clothing encourages consumers to purchase more than needed. Greenpeace found the average person buys 60% more clothing annually, but only retains them for half as long when compared to 15 years ago. This perpetuates a cycle of buying clothes, wearing them just a few times, only to throw them away. Currently 200,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year, even though 95% of items could be upcycled or simply re-worn.  

The environmental impact of fast fashion

Environmental Impacts 

Fast fashion contributes to waste, land and water pollution, exploitation of workers, and is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, according to Ethical Consumer. More than half of new clothing purchased is made of fabrics containing synthetic fibres – tiny pieces of plastic less than 5mm in length. Like most plastic, these fibres are made from fossil fuels such as oil and gas, and they emit more carbon dioxide when manufactured compared to natural sources like cotton. Synthetic fabrics such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester are difficult to recycle and can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.  Studies have shown that, on average, 700,000 synthetic fibres are released every time we wash our clothes in the washing machine. These microplastics are ingested by marine life, and eventually make it back into the human system via the water cycle and food chain. 


What can I do? 

The lure of fast fashion is its convenience and affordability, but these come at a significant cost to both people and the environment. Fast Fashion relies on demand, particularly impulse buying and recurring consumption. Here are some steps you can take to pave the way for an eco-friendly and more sustainable planet:  

  1. Get thrifty! Consider buying secondhand, either from brick-and-mortar op shops or from one of the increasingly popular resale clothing apps 
  2. Purchase from sustainable brands and aim for natural materials such as wool, cotton and linen whenever possible.   
  3. Apply the 4 “R’s” of circular fashion—consider reducing, reusing, renting and repairing your clothes. 
  4. Practise a minimalist mindset – less is more. Buy a few, good quality classic items of clothing that will last for years instead of buying lots of cheap items that’ll fall apart in next to no time.