Fair Trade Apparel: Social, Cultural, and Environmental Impacts of “Fast Fashion” Versus “Slow Fashion” Companies
Mentor:Jodi Titus, Professor of Geography, Irvine Valley College
“Fast fashion” is the term used to describe the mass production and consumption of cheap and highly trendy clothing. “Slow fashion” is the term used to describe the sustainable and ethically conscious production and consumption of clothing, which, promotes quality over quantity, and aims to reduce the negative impacts of “fast fashion” through reforming consumerist culture. This research identifies the standards of “fast fashion” companies (Zara, H&M, and Uniqlo) and “slow fashion” companies (People Tree, Wombat, and Fair Indigo) and compares their cultural, social, and environmental impacts. The differing social and cultural impacts of each industry are based on the dissimilarities of their Fair Trade policies. The exceptional fair trade standards of “slow fashion” companies ensure ethically superior business conduct that focuses on the fair treatment of every contributor, from the farm to the factory, and the manipulation of market forces to improve the communities of marginalized workers in developing countries. Environmental impacts are based on analysis of production process and product quality of each industry. Unlike “fast fashion” companies, companies like People Tree, Wombat, and Fair Indigo use organic cotton and non-toxic dyes to promote an environmentally responsible mode of production. In addition to this, “Fast fashion” companies like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo are characterized by the mass production of non-durable clothing which promotes a “throw away culture” that disregards waste management. The drastic variances of the social, cultural, and environmental impacts of each industry point to the ethical superiority of “slow fashion”. This research aims to better inform the consumer and point out the ambiguity of the term “fair trade” and proposes the establishment of a greater distinction.