Fast Fashion has grown in popularity as consumers desire is to have high-fashion designs at a lower cost. With the closure of retail shops during the lockdowns in the past year, research has found that online shopping had dramatically increased to £5.3 billion in the UK alone in 2020. With this easy accessibility to purchasing into fast fashion, its popularity does not seem to slow down.
But this overconsumption of cheaply made clothing is having damaging effects on animals. The search for resources and inspiration for these garments has lacked in the consideration for wildlife. This needs to change. Having a better understanding of how our consumer habits are damaging the animals we love could make you think twice before buying. Here I will show you three examples of what exactly happens to animals so we can look fashionable.
Rayon is contributing to deforestation
This may become a surprise that some materials hung up in our wardrobes are a contributing factor to deforestation. An uncommon fact is that pulp is typically extracted from endangered or ancient forests.
Dissolving this pulp or the bleached wood pulp becomes the base material for rayon and viscose (a form of rayon). These fibres are commonly used as a material for clothes. There are currently more than 150 million trees that are logged which are being prepared to be made into our clothes.
Deforestation has a direct effect on wildlife. The animals that are endemic to a specific area that is linked to forests have their habitats logged for fashion. Many of these species are endangered and the destruction of their habitats are making them even more vulnerable.
Polluting our ocean
The production of cheaply made fast fashion clothing is damaging the ocean and its sea life. It is common for global clothing factories to flush away hazardous chemicals from their production into water systems and the ocean. Dyeing textiles is the highest contributor to water pollution in the industry with 20%. This leaves fish to live in the toxic water, making them vulnerable to dying and becoming extinct.
Even washing your fast fashion clothing into the washing machine is contributing to the ocean’s habitat. Due to the cheaper materials and production of creating the new garments, every time you wash your clothes millions of microfibres drain through the waterworks and into the ocean. High quality and more sustainable fabrics do not contribute as high as fast fashion.
Sea creatures such as plankton accidentally eat these miniature microfibres as they mistake them for a source of food. This gets stuck in their stomach and leaves them feeling full which results in dying of starvation.
The animal cruelty
When we buy a pair of leather shoes, do we really think about where the material comes from? That fresh leather smell as you open the shoebox is quite addictive. Leather is a popular material for the fashion industry as it can withstand the effects of time and all its wear and tear. The comfortability and ease to take care of wool material is also another example of a go-to material for fast fashion.
However, what goes on behind the scenes to source the materials from animals are not typically vocalised. The conditions that the animals have to suffer so we can keep on top of the fashion trends is not what some companies want us to see.
Research from FOUR PAWS has estimated that we use over 200 billion animals every year for their fur, wool, and leather. Many of these animals are forced to live in poor living conditions and suffer from brutal physical mutilation practices. This is all so the production of the clothing is cheaper.
What has been done to help animals?
The Fashion Loved By Forest campaign by Canopy has teamed up with big-name global brands such as H&M to get their fabrics from tree fibres that come from sustainable certified forests. However not all fast fashion companies have considered being more sustainable. Deforestation for viscose is rising in forests in Indonesia, Canada, and the Amazon.
The fashion industry has taken some notice in the unethicalness of using animals as a material resource. Some high-end brands have become more cautious of the animal abuse and have changed what materials they use. Vegan leather is just one example of the many sustainable and animal free material to replace the actual material.