How fast fashion is killing the earth and our taste in clothes

Can an industry that produces a million new pieces of clothing a day be truly sustainable? Vaidehi Shah looks at the ugly side of fast fashion and explores what companies are doing to address it.

fast fashion store london
A clothing store in London boasts 'new arrivals every day'. Fast fashion brands on average produce more than one million new clothes a day. Image: pcruciatti /

A decade from now, new clothes may be within the reach of only the extremely rich, and they would have to shop under the watchful gaze of armed guards at stores, or on the black market. These clothes, stitched from scarce and expensive natural resources, would be ‘certified new’ to set them apart from the more affordable second-hand or recycled threads donned by the vast majority of society.

This is one of four plausible scenarios the fashion sector could face as early as 2025, according to sustainable development charity Forum for the Future. It provides a starting point for the industry to understand the challenges it could face in years to come, and to develop business strategies that could help them weather an uncertain and resource-scarce future.

While it remains to be seen if this scenario will play out in the future, the fashion industry today is already crimped by resource-hungry manufacturing and excessive consumption.

The global fashion industry, which Irish market research firm Research and Markets forecasts will be worth more than US$1.5 trillion in 2015, is dominated by a culture of ‘fast fashion’,  or the frequent and trend-driven purchase of cheap, poor-quality clothing that is worn for a short period of time before being cast away.

Each day, batches of new, inexpensive clothes find their way to retail racks in volumes that ensure that the industry gets bigger every year (the value of the industry is estimated to grow by 32 per cent from 2010 to 2015 globally). Research by Switzerland-based The Fiber Year Consulting shows that production volume of the global textile industry rose from 86 million tonnes in 2011 to 92.3 million tonnes last year (2013).

Read the rest of the story in the Eco-Business magazine here.

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