The textile and clothing industry is the second largest sector on the African continent, and South Africa is estimated to employ 80,000 people. The rise of fast fashion is not only threatening the safety of people employed by the textile industry in South Africa, it is also having a terrible effect on the environment due to fast fashion practices.
The origins of fast fashion
In the early 2000s, a seemingly innocuous trend emerged in clothing manufacturing: brands were reproducing cheap replicas of designer fashions and selling them at a price that allowed more people to afford them. The success of this business model has allowed fast fashion to take the world by storm. To meet growing demand, fast fashion brands are resorting to practices that are harmful to the environment and people.
The bad side of pretty clothes
To save on production costs while keeping their clothes affordable, fast fashion brands find the cheapest textile manufacturers in countries where labor laws are not enforced. This leads to the use of child labor or forced labor.
More often than not, these countries are developing countries and key environmental laws that would normally be enforced in developed countries are ignored. This includes the contamination of rivers with harmful chemicals. In a study conducted to test pollution levels in rivers in southern Africa, a river in Lesotho was found to be polluted by the dye used in jeans. In a similar case, the Msimbazi River in Tanzania, which is near a textile factory, was found to have the same pH level as bleach.
Eco-Friendly Fast Fashion Alternatives
Fast fashion is cheap for a reason. Items don’t last and waste ends up in landfills instead of being recycled or saved. Thrift shopping is buying second-hand clothes from a thrift store or retailer, and recycling is fixing or improving clothes you already own. Buying from a local manufacturer is also a great alternative to fast fashion, and it’s a way to grow the local economy and encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment.
These sustainable fashion practices can be adopted to reduce the effect of fast fashion, as fast fashion has no place in an eco-friendly world. Overall, the negative effects of fast fashion, such as overfilling landfills with textile waste or contaminating water sources with dyes, outweigh its benefits.