How Are My Clothes Made? - 5 Unglamorous Truths About Fast Fashion

Walking around the shops the other day, I asked myself a simple question that hadn't occurred to me before, where do all these clothes come from? Since the onset of fast fashion, I have never seen so many different shops filled and stacked to the brim with tons and tons of clothing, accessories and shoes. My question was answered when I watched an eye-opening documentary on the fashion industry called 'The True Cost' which I highly recommend if you want to learn more. Here are 5 shocking truths I learnt about the fashion industry and how our clothes are actually made. 

1. Clothing has hazardous chemicals & don't bio-degrade  

An investigation performed by Greenpeace found that certain chemicals used in the dying and processing of clothing materials can be absorbed through the skin and become hormone disrupting and even cause cancer. Calvin Klein, Zara and Mango were all found to have hazardous chemicals prevalent in their clothing. The use of cheap materials like polyester, which is essentially a plastic made from fossil fuels, is found in 50 percent of all clothing. 

Fact: Clothing made from polyester takes up to 200 years to breakdown in a landfill. 

2. Retailers want you to buy more every week 

With the arrival of fast fashion, the fashion industry has gone from working on a cycle of 2 seasons per year to 52 micro seasons a year. Retailers need consumers to buy as much clothing as quickly as possible. The definition of value has essentially changed. Where we once viewed value as something in terms of quality for price, we now relate value to the idea of a bargain. 

Fact: On average, a garment is worn 7 times before it is disregarded. 

3. The fashion industry is second largest polluter in the world

When we think of contributing factors to pollution, we often imagine coal power plants, sewer systems or large factories emitting toxic fumes. According to MSNBC, approximately 10% of the world's total carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally. 

Fact: The average person throws away 32 kilograms of clothing per year. 

4. Clothing is designed not to last 

Fashion retailers purposefully design clothing and choose materials that are easily disposable and do not last. This is because they depend on you buying more and more often to make a profit. 

5. The minimum wage of Bangladesh garment worker is $67 a month (equivalent to R870 at current exchange rate)

Bangladesh is the world's second largest apparel exporter and has the lowest minimum wage rate for garment workers in the world. This is also coupled with unsafe and cramped working conditions, where many workers are forced to work 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week.