Why you should not support fast fashion

Fast fashion clothing is clogging up rivers in Ghana. Picture: Pexels.

Fast fashion clothing is clogging up rivers in Ghana. Picture: Pexels.

Published Mar 27, 2024


Fast fashion, it is easily accessible, cheap and on-trend, but at what cost?

We all need clothes but we need to be careful of what we do with the clothes we no longer use. If you throw away your clothes, then you contribute to pollution.

Beautiful as it is, fashion is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. In a study conducted by “Business Insider”, fashion production comprises 10% of total global carbon emissions.

“The Guardian” posted an article highlighting the dangers of fashion and its consequences. River Volta in Ghana is a victim of fast fashion as it is clogged due to clothes that are discarded.

Ghana is the biggest importer of clothing. They have a thing called “obroni wawu” or “dead white man’s clothes”, more like thrifting, where locals buy donated clothes in bales from the UK, US and China.

In the bales, they don’t know what’s inside so they pick clothes that can still be wearable to sell at the market and then discard the rest, and that’s how rivers get clogged.

One of the vendors interviewed by “The Guardian” said she once received a bale of jeans full of blood stains and had to throw everything away.

“Most of the 230 items were rubbish; I noticed so many bloodstains. I’m really angry and have thrown all of them away.”

While we understand vendors selling second-hand clothing are only trying to make a living, exporters need to stop sending ruined clothes to Africa. And that’s something Nana Tamakloe, founder of Accra Fashion Week, has been concerned about.

When I met him in Moscow, Russia, in December, where we were attending BRICS+ Fashion Summit, I asked him what he would like to change in the fashion industry.

He wanted (some) European countries and China to stop treating Africa like a dump site by sending used clothes because if they cared so much about sustainability and the planet, they would properly recycle those clothes instead of dumping them to Africa.

A woman in Ghana carrying a bale of clothes, some of which may not be used.

In South Africa, “Twyg Magazine”, an independent media NPO that promotes sustainable fashion, is doing its best to raise awareness against fast fashion.

They host events like Africa Textile Talks to teach people the importance of sustainable fashion and how it can help save the planet.

They also have the Sustainable Fashion Awards to honour fashion brands protecting the environment.

If you think of supporting fast fashion like Shein or Temu, think again. Instead, support local retailers that have the sustainable fashion movement by selling clothes that are proudly made in South Africa.

They do so by partnering with emerging designers to have their collections sold at their stores. For example, Mr Price, Jet and Foschini are doing it.