Shein, Forever 21, H&M, and Fashion Nova are just a few of the many fast fashion brands that are currently negatively impacting the world we live in today. In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for 5% of total global carbon emissions.
So what is “fast fashion” exactly?
Good On You, a website dedicated to promoting more ethical fashion brands, defines this issue as “cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand.” Fast fashion is such a harmful industry because of its mass production of clothes that are currently trending but sold at much lower prices and made with cheaper fabric. This not only impacts our planet negatively by creating waste and contributing to the rise of carbon emissions, but we also fail to consider that cheap clothing comes at the cost of cheap labor and terrible working conditions. Moreover, because we live in a world heavily influenced by social media and celebrity culture, we are constantly exposed and pressured to follow new trends. So, it becomes a vicious cycle of buying and throwing away these clothes once the clothes are “out of style”.
Buying clothes used to be something that not only was done on a seasonal basis but also as a luxury, especially high end pieces. However, now that fast fashion has made cheap and on trend clothing easily accessible, the amount of waste that is produced continues to increase. According to The World Bank, “If demographic and lifestyle patterns continue as they are now, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.” Similarly, another article by the Princeton Student Climate Initiative states that “If the industry maintains its course, an increase of 50% in greenhouse gas emissions is expected within a decade.”
In addition to being detrimental for the environment, fast fashion also often disregards female fashion designers with “just 40% percent of womenswear brands being led by female designers”. So, I write this article not only to shed light on the negative impacts of fast fashion, but also to highlight some amazing women who are combating this issue with their brands. It is time that we begin looking into much more ethical and sustainable fashion brands. With that being said, here are a couple of women owned fashion brands that are all about sustainability.
This fashion brand is an inclusive lingerie brand which focuses on having lingerie in various skin tone colors. Founded by Shobha Philips, Proclaim practices ethical production by sourcing all of its fabrics from recycled plastic bottles.
2. Girlfriend Collective
Founded by CEO Ellie Dinh, Girlfriend Collective is as transparent and sustainable as it gets when it comes to sourcing materials. Realizing that trash such as plastic bottles clog landfills and pollute our oceans, Girlfriend Collective repurposes these items to create eco-friendly activewear out of recycled materials. From their products to their packaging, they ensure that everything that they produce is 100% recycled and recyclable.
Patagonia is a well known brand that thankfully is all about sustainability with its mission statement being “We’re in business to save our home planet”. Founded by CEO Rose Marcario, Patagonia is leading the pack in addressing climate change, innovating sustainable clothing production, and public engagement.
Swimsuit styles are always changing, and I know that needing more than one cute suit for the summer is a must. But again, constantly buying new swimsuits and throwing out the old ones only adds on to the amount of textile waste generated each year. Fortunately, Summersalt is a fashion startup that makes affordable designer swimsuits and uses recycled materials to create fabrics and product packaging. Even better, their fabric is 5 times stronger than average swimsuit materials and reduces manufacturing waste.
5. Malia Designs
This woman-owned brand is not only fighting fast fashion, but also the unethical practices that can be found in many commercial fashion companies when it comes to unbearable working conditions. For instance, in many fast fashion businesses laborers are not being paid enough for their work, and their safety is not a priority. Malia Designs is a socially responsible brand that sells fair trade handbags and accessories. Fair Trade businesses aim to combat poverty by providing a fair, livable wage for all workers, ensuring safe working conditions, empowering the disadvantaged to be active players in their workplaces, aiding community development efforts, respecting cultural identity, and promoting environmentally-sound business practices. Malia Designs products are handcrafted in Cambodia, and every purchase helps to fight human trafficking as well. As members of the Fair Trade Federation, artisans are provided a safe work environment, fair wage, and positive community. Bags are crafted using responsible materials such as recycled cement bags, up-cycled cotton, and more. So, not only would you be purchasing a very cute and stylish bag, but the proceeds will also be going towards a worthy cause.
These are just a few of the many ethical and sustainable fashion brands out there with even more on the rise. With the current state of our planet it is important that we keep finding ways to live sustainably whether it be reusing clothes or supporting a more environmentally friendly brand. These women are strong examples of not only how to fight fast fashion with their companies, but also of those who inspire other women designers to become CEOs of their brand.