Neoliberalism and unsustainability through fast fashion

Neoliberalism is a policy model in economics that allows the transfer of the economic factors from public to the private sector. It relies on the idea that economic growth can be obtained by increasing the competition between companies, by opening domestic markets to foreign investments and liberalization of policies. The major priorities of neo-liberal policy model is to expand the market, facilitate foreign investments, open competition, increase mass production and consumption. This was seen as a major step towards economic growth of the country since it opened broader opportunities. Just like every coin has two sides, the policy also had certain adverse effects making the world unsustainable. These neo-liberal policies are seen to increase cause pollution (industrialization); encourages consumption of environmentally hazardous products(global consumerism); worsening of greenhouse effect and ozone layer depletion; depletion of nonrenewable resources (Haque,1999).

The fashion industry has been a significant contributor in the environmental and social issues. Unlike other entities that are replaced once they are worn out, fashion cycle is replaced long before it was necessary. More than the use value, fast fashion holds a symbolic value. The fashion industry is regularly is subjected to trends over the last two to three decades. The industry is based on the very core of continuous consumption of the ‘new’ and the discard of the ‘old’. The emergence of ‘fast fashion’ model has led to the fashion obsolescence. It enabled planned production and distribution in packages of
trend-based fashion. It also means that time put on the production lines requires to be low. Materials requires to be comparatively cheap, and designs have to be simpler for mass production. It also has significant negative environmental and social impacts. Production in developing nations has become a go to choice due to low cost labor and less strict standards and regulations related to the social and environmental issues (Hethorn & Ulasewicz, 2008). Social impacts such as rights of the worker, poor working
situations, long hours, less wages, child labor and safety issues are still problems of concern in these nations. The decrease in the price of apparel, and faster trend cycles added with low quality production and planned fashion obsolescence has increased the consumption of clothes globally. Fast fashion apparel is highly trendy, inexpensive and that are quick to produce, so industry designs and manufactures pieces to be worn a limited number of times. The cheap fabric and poor garment construction forces users to discard them shortly, shortening the lifetime of the product. Furthermore, the
fashion and textile industry create environmental and social footprint at each stage of the product cycle including fiber growth and manufacturing, dyeing, finishing, transportation and distribution, washing and drying, and ultimate disposal (Fulton & Lee 2010). The present footprint of fashion industry is over eight per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions (Kozlowski ,2019).

Recycling of the apparel is also a tough task using the current technology. So, it either ends being shredded for insulation or left as rags. The heavy production of cheap clothes by the fashion industry has led to the downfall of second hand industry. This led to the clothes ending up as trash. Natural
fibers — cotton, linen, silk or synthetics made from plant cellulose such as rayon, behave more like food waste in landfill, creating methane as they degrade, thus contributing to global warming. The situation for synthetic fibers is even worse. They are plastics and take years, at minimum, to degrade and ultimately blend back into the environment (Kozlowski ,2019). Waste and landfills are not the only problems that occur due to fast
fashion. Many production processes need heavy water supply, as in growing cotton, a water intensive plant. Further, cotton is also extremely chemically dependent leading to extensive use of pesticides and insecticides. Further, most apparels are produced using chemical dyes, causing pollution in the places, and having associated health and safety impacts. Also with advent of internet consumers are now shifting their place of purchase from
physical clothing stores to online retail sites. Consumers are offered more product choices due which the production of variants is to be increased leading to extensive impact on the environment.

Communication designer