Fast Fashion As A Wicked Problem With No Definitive Formulation

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The rapid growth of the fashion industry is to be considered when referencing Darwins (1859) theory of evolution which states how society continuously takes improvements and advancements to higher levels. With an accelerated growth of the quality of life, clothing has not only become an essential item in our everyday lives but also a form of self expression within society. Clothing has become such an imperative part of all of us that more often than not, we tend to overlook its environmental and social consequences. This has driven markets and industries to continuously push out new fashion products to keep up with trends and not lose its competitive edge in the market; hence, fast fashion. Fast fashion is considered to be a complex wicked problem because it is not only multifaceted but also interconnected and self-perpetuating (Kennedy, Kapitan, Bajaj, Bakonyi, Sands 2017). With the concept of Fast fashion, the current supply of fashion to the market comes in a matter of weeks creating a complex issue that includes excessive consumption, violation of human and labour rights as well as impacts on the environment. Fast fashion as a wicked problem, has no definitive formulation where we are able to write a well-defined statement of the problem compared to an ordinary problem (Camillus, 2008).

Every wicked problem is not self-contained and is always tangled with another problem. Attempts have been made to try and ‘solve’ this issue, one of them being to use more sustainable material in order to counter the amount of non-biodegradable waste taken to the landfill. However implementing this idea has now caused other problems to arise such as health risks and an increase in poverty rates. Ever since the need to implement biodegradable materials had been established, many brands such as Reformation, Levis and Zara have looked to cotton as a change in their clothing material. Cotton is one of the most widely used sustainable clothing material used in the fashion industry however its production process is not only detrimental to the environment but also to society. 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton (World Resources Institute website, 2019). Moreover, 2,700 litres of water is needed to make one cotton shirt, just enough water for one person to drink for two and a half years (World Resources Institute website, 2019). Chemicals from the dyeing and treatment of organic cotton escapes treatment and enters freshwater sources. The Citrus river in Indonesia is one example that contains over 200 textile factories along its riverbank deeming it to be the most polluted river globally (Drop4drop website,2019). Local communities that stay along the river bank uses it as their main water and food source. However, the highly saturated river filled with cancer and disease causing chemicals does not provide a habitable living environment for fishes hence, the communities food supply has been cut leaving them with no food and income. Death rates amongst the local community had also increased due to the inability to pay for medical care once locals get infected by the water (Drop4drop website,2019). The advancement in technology however, such as water-less dyes have been created to minimise pollution that involve less chemicals and almost no water in its process (Yale Environment website, 2014). This would act as a step in the direction of preventing further damage to its local communities as well as the earth.

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The violation of human or labour rights is also prevalent in this wicked issue. To try and tackle this issue, the Human Rights Watch pushed for a level of transparency within the garment industry by creating a “Transparency Pledge” (Human Rights Watch website, 2018). This pledge acted as a starting for the disclosure of companies. Up to date, a large amount of companies have stepped forward and disclosed the details of its supply factories however the Index group, Urban Outfitters and more have yet to disclose of such details. This raises concern because worst cases of labour abuse usually take place in illegally subcontracted factories (Human Rights Watch website, 2018). Without the details of the supplier’s factory, monitoring of labour practises are restricted. Tragic cases such as the Pakistan and Bangladesh factory fires killed more than 1,500 workers and leaving hundreds injured. Within these factories are women garment workers who get poor wages from the long hours they work, refusal of paid maternity benefits, forced overtime work and workplace harassment. Poor wages they obtain as compared to men in the workforce is the result of pre-existing discriminatory societal hierarchies (Niebank, 2018). Implementing the “Transparency Pledge” is useful to a certain extent because it allows monitoring of fair labour practices amongst fashion companies and making sure that companies are not ill treating its employees. However, there are still many companies who have yet to disclose information because the pledge is not compulsory for all brands which allows them to continue to be kept in the dark.


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