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A Guide to Fast Fashion: Climate Change and the Way we Must Change

Updated: May 12, 2023

Over the last 200 years, we have constructed a society that feeds off excessive consumption. Owing to this, a climate change has developed that is effectively destroying the planet. Even though circularity is finally paving its way to normality, there are still many sectors and mindsets of executives and politicians alike that are linear. Furthermore, one sector that substantially goes into the extremes is fast fashion.

Fast fashion in its linearity, pollutes the planet and further empowers us in feeding on our excessive consumption and mindsets. The fashion industry produces 92 million tonnes of waste yearly, 79 trillion litres of water are consumed in production and 8-10% of global CO2 emissions originate from the fashion industry[1]. Fast fashion mainly uses the textile polyester, which is extracted from fossil fuels. Moreover, when washing polyester, microfibres are released which pollute our oceans[2]. Reaching even further depths than environmental damage, fast fashion also violates human rights, as for example when a manufacturing complex, called Rana Plaza, collapsed, resulting in over 1000 deaths of workers in Bangladesh[3].

These toxic and horrifying circumstances stem from the reliance on little costs, quick production, and an even quicker delivery to the consumer[4]. The industry reaches breadths and depths far further than our sight can reach: The supply chain ranges from agriculture, production and manufacturing until logistics and retail[5] . Seasonality is the key to fast fashion and similarly, trends stemming from the haute couture runways drive fast fashion further[6]. This results in the typical fashion life cycle of “growth, increase in public acceptance, mass conformity (maturation) and finally the decline and obsolescence of fashion”[7]. Thus, fashion garments might be circular in their life cycle, however not in their way of production. Consequently, fast fashion nourishes the high regard of ourselves by making us fashionable and reassures us in our values of excessiveness: “the more, the better” would be the saying. Unfortunately, consumers abide to these damaging circumstances due to lower prices and more variety in clothing[8]. Lastly, due to these new standards, production of clothing has almost doubled in size since the year 2000[9]. The frontrunners of fast fashion are the successful conglomerates Zara, H&M, UNIQLO, Shein, TopShop, Fashionnova and many more[10].

Fashion is not necessary nor essential, however clothing is. Therefore, a sustainable connection of fashion and clothing must be found. A first step in resolving this fashion crisis is in changing mindsets: “Less is more” and “quality over quantity” is the new status-quo. Furthermore, in order to sustain a style that will always be above the trends, you need to buy timeless pieces. Therefore, a long-term investment is essential. Although, more expensive does not necessarily mean more sustainable. Nevertheless, higher quality leads to longer garment lifetimes, sparing the environment. Alternatively, second-hand stores are a good solution to find unique and more sustainable pieces of clothing. An example would be Musacé , a secondhand store located in Switzerland, with which oikos recently held an event with. To avoid supporting companies, which greenwash, substantial research is needed. Buying and investing in smaller brands that have their sole focus on sustainability is key. For example, one can find these on the website Good on you. Oikos has recently also held an event with the brand Cloudburst, which produces clothes sustainably and is based in Switzerland. Certain bigger brands that are known for sustainability are Stella Mccartney, Sézane and Veja[11].

As a rule of thumb, always donate or give to second-hand stores when wanting to throw the item away. Due to this, the circularity of the item gets a kickstart. Further, buy locally instead of online to avoid the pollution effects of shipping. Moreover, you can use certain features to calculate how a clothing item would fit your body to reduce the chances of having to return a product. For instance, the start-up Alter Ego can be of assistance to this, with which oikos held an event recently as well. Considering that some people live off the jobs that fast fashion demand, such as low-paid sewers and agricultural workers, solutions are required[12]. However, how can one worry about these if the environment is not even intact anymore? Lastly and most importantly executives and politicians need to be informed and there needs to be resistance. Fashion is art and a long-term investment, where you can express yourself and the current time and age and should therefore also be utilized in a sustainable manner.

At oikos St. Gallen, Un-Dress focuses on sustainable fashion and organizes a yearly fashion show with sustainable brands. If you are interested in showing your support for sustainable brands, you can participate in the model-casting in the Square on Thursday or watch the fashion show next year!

[1] (Niinimäki, Peters et al., 2020, p. 189). [2] (Rauturier, 2022). [3] (Rauturier, 2022). [4] (Doyle, Moore, and Morgan, 2006 as cited in Bhardwaj & Fairhust, 2010, p. 165) [5] (Niinimäki, Peters et al., 2020, p.190). [6] (Bhardwaj & Fairhust, 2010, p. 165). [7] (Bhardwaj & Fairhust, 2010, p. 167). [8] (Bhardwaj & Fairhust, 2010, p. 166). [9] (Niinimäki, Peters et al., 2020, p. 189). [10] (Hayes, 2022). [11] (Davis, 2022). [12] (Assoune, 2022)


Assoune, A. (2021, 27. October). The Truth About Workers Conditions In Fast Fashion. Panaprium.

Bhardwaj, V. & Fairhurst, A. (2010). Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 20(1), 165–173.

Davis, J. (2022, 6. September). Our favourite sustainable brands. Harper’s BAZAAR.

Hayes, A. (2022, 16. September). Fast Fashion Explained and How It Impacts Retail Manufacturing. Investopedia.

Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H., Perry, P., Rissanen, T. & Gwilt, A. (2020). The environmental price of fast fashion. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1(4), 189–200.

Rauturier, S. (2022, 1. April). What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It So Bad? Good On You.

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Really well written, I love it 😍

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