The French investigative documentary team of Gilles Bovon and Edouard Perrin are known worldwide for bringing important but underrepresented issues to the public. Their latest effort, “Fast Fashion: The Real Price of Low-Cost Fashion”, looks at how companies are producing fashionable clothing for little money and in little time. Those two factors have left a wake of problems that consumers rarely see.
To help shed light on this issue, Associate Professor Nikolay Anguelov (Public Policy) was interviewed to discuss the economic and environmental impacts of fast fashion.
“The issue with fast fashion commerce is that it depends and promotes over-consumption. It creates a culture of addiction to novelty, not necessarily style. It is a business of impulse purchasing, where buyers click “add to cart” on smart devices of products that cost less than their lunch,” said Anguelov. “The documentary explains that this type of behavior is causing a psychological condition akin to drug addiction. An addiction to constantly displaying novelty. The traditional fashion trends are now replaced by micro-trends, lasting an average of 30 days.”
Anguelov’s research on the subject culminated in two books. In his 2015 book, titled The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry: Fast Fashion and Its Negative Impact on Environment and Society (Routledge), Anguelov explains the ethical aspects of the international fashion trade through the lens of ecological damage in the manufacturing of clothes and the waste of quickly discarded garments and associated labor problems including hazardous working conditions and low wages. In his forthcoming sequel The Sustainable Fashion Quest: Innovations in Business and Policy (Routledge), Anguelov will analyze the evolution of the industry toward circularity and a carbon-positive future.
In both these works, there is a detailed analysis of how social media is shaping fashion commerce. In the documentary, Anguelov says that “Almost half of Instagram posts are devoted to fashion and beauty. The typical fast fashion consumer is young and connected. He feels constantly observed. Users of social networks spy on you. You cannot be seen twice in the same outfit.”
The documentary delves into all these issues and more by sending undercover journalists across the globe to fast fashion factories and interviewing workers and others affected by the industry.
“What is new with this film is the focus on the new online, click-bait commerce dependent, super-fast fashion conglomerates emerging and growing despite calls for de-growth, reuse, and upcycling. Such messaging is cleverly deflected with effective greenwashing campaigns from the brands, giving a false sense of comfort to consumers,” said Anguelov. “The film exposes the reality that although the brands can promise, and in some cases, do offer better waste management for discarded clothes, the most ecologically damaging processes are in weaving, dyeing, and finishing of the fabric where nothing much is changing. The footage from communities around textile factories of ill workers, exposed to toxic chemicals and unsafe working conditions, is what the consumer needs to see. It is an environmental justice catastrophe the industry needs to address.”