The Fast-Fashion Wave
Nowadays, the clothing industry is plagued by superlatives: fast, faster, fast-fashion. Clothes are getting cheaper, sales figures higher, items are worn for shorter periods of time, the quality is worse. Especially the textile workers, our environment and the climate suffer from this. This art installation is intended to visually draw attention to the problems of our mass textile consumption and its severe effects.
The Fast-Fashion Wave is one of three installations concerning water and social inequality, that will draw attention to the consequences of human actions on the environment and society. They are placed in Augsburg's old town during the Canoeing Worldchampionship 2022.
Clotheslines in the Pfladerngasse
Five washing lines were stretched between the walls of Pfladergasse, on which a colorful selection of old clothes is hanging. Everything is included - from wildly patterned blouses to striped baby rompers. All of these clothing items have already been disposed by their former owners, although they are still in very good condition.
Between the rather cheerful-looking clothes, banners with keywords or numbers provide information about the serious background of fast fashion: 2,700 litres of water for one t-shirt, 1,134 deaths in the Rana Plaza accident in Bangladesh, around half a billion kilos of micro plastic in our waters. he bare numbers and dates are intended to arouse the curiosity of people walking by. More information are provided on text panels standing next to the installation.
CANOUANCES ON THE OCCASION OF THE CANOEING WORLDCHAMPIONSHIP 2022
The project consists of three waves: The Fast-Fashion Wave, The Plastic-Waste Wave by Stefan Kaindl and The Solidarity Wave. The CANOUANCES are located in Augsburg's old town during the Canoeing Worldchampionship from July 26 to 31. They were created in cooperation between the City of Augsburg, the Habitat Augsburg Association and the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences. Here on the Lifeguide, the project is accompanied by the Office for Sustainability Augsburg.
Rapidly Changing Trends
Every season large volumes of clothing articles are produced in developing countries. These are then sold in the developed world at very low prices, only to be thrown out once the next trend-wave comes crashing onto the shore. Change comes and goes like a high-speed train in this industry, loading off new fabrics, cuts, and trends, and carting off the old, unwanted ones. In the case of the fashion economy, “old” can be defined by months, if not weeks. This is made possible by influential enterprises speedily having clothes produced in low-income regions, such as Bangladesh. Here, the working environment is inhumane and the workers, who are largely women and girls, are made to labor for insuperable and meager wages. Their days are marked by oppression and a constant fear for their safety.
The materials our clothes are made of
However, the appalling working conditions and the poor treatment of laborers are only two of the problems that beset the fast-fashion industry. You must look no further than the materials themselves, such as cotton and polyester. The cultivation of cotton results in monocultures in the areas in which it is produced. What’s more, cotton plantations require large amounts of water for irrigation, yet are often located in countries that suffer from severe water shortages. And if the cotton isn’t organic, pesticides and other strong chemicals are employed. Synthetic fiber such as polyester similarly burdens the environment, as its production requires the use of fossil fuels and the material itself sheds microplastics.
Export to other Countries
In the fast-fashion world, it’s not just workers and the environment that suffer; the quality does, too. The reason is that speed is one of the greatest factors for success in this lucrative business. As long as a product is made and shipped quickly, the quality of the piece or the circumstances of its making are of no importance. In fact, fast-fashion companies often aren’t quick enough before many of the pieces have even hit the shop window, a new trend comes rolling into the station, and the “old” is replaced by the new. What follows is an indisputable waste issue, as the replaced items are sent to poorer areas of the world, where they end up in landfills. An apt example is Atacama Desert in Chile, where daily tons of clothes are dumped in the middle of nature. It is true that, due to the poor quality of the pieces, they do not last very long and wearing them for some time will leave them visibly frayed. However, many of these articles are brand-new and undamaged, thrown out for the sole reason of no longer meeting the latest trends.
Due to the many synthetic fabrics used in the production of the apparels, they degenerate very slowly. Moreover, burning them not only harms the atmosphere, but likewise releases certain chemicals that seep into the earth, and eventually the groundwater. Some people with low-income try to eke out a livelihood by combing through landfills for items to sell.
What can I do?
The first decisive step is to abandon the idea that one's personal actions do not contribute to overall change, and that one therefore does not need to critically scrutinize one's purchasing behavior. Many individuals generate demand through their purchasing behavior and consequently influences supply. It is immensely important to educate oneself on the ecological and social issues of fast-fashion, to adjust one’s consumption and behavior accordingly. The key is to treat clothing with respect and gratitude, to value it and not simply regard it as a disposable product. Long wear, swapping, giving away, repairing, borrowing, donating, and upcycling can maximize the longevity of clothing articles. If you decide to buy new clothes, first reflect on your current purchasing behavior. Are you blinded by greenwashing, or do you critically question when fashion companies promote themselves and their clothing as sustainable?
Do I really need it?
It often helps to ask yourself whether you really need the item you want - this is certainly a good way to avoid unnecessary quick-buys, especially on days such as Black Friday, when items are supposedly heavily discounted. If you indeed decide to buy the article, you might want to find out about the working conditions, supply chains, and materials used in advance, and buy slow or fair fashion products. Second-hand/eco/fair-trade stores, flea markets or clothing swap parties are ideal places to start.