Guerra de la Paz. Follow the Leader, 2009. Found patterned garments, wood, footwear and hardware, approx. 75 feet long by 7 feet tall. Courtesy of the artists and Chloe GIll-Holster Projects.

Artizan ReMade – Focus on Fast Fashion

Featured image:  Guerra de la Paz. Follow the Leader, 2009. Found patterned garments, wood, footwear and hardware, approx. 75 feet long by 7 feet tall. Courtesy of the artists and Chloe GIll-Holster Projects.


I have been making things since I was a kid, encouraged by a father who was also creative and who enjoyed using scrap metals and fabrics as materials.  When I launched Artizan Made, I was especially interested in finding members who showed an interest and commitment to sustainability, either by using natural materials or by using waste as their materials.  That playful enjoyment has increasingly grown to a panic level call to action:  We must stop polluting the planet! 


Our wasteful practices have grown to toxic levels in the last 20 years.  We see what plastic is doing to our oceans and waterways and how microplastics have infiltrated everything to the point where some studies claim that we now eat the equivalent of one credit card a week! Autopsies have found plastic in our organs, our brains, and even in fetuses.
This is a good report to look at.


Then, there is electronic waste, massive dumps of clothing (piles so big they can be seen from space!), horrible practices in how our food is grown…  the planet is sick, affecting climate change and causing massive deaths of animal species. We are now in the 6th Mass Extinction:


“More than 500 species of land animals are on the brink of extinction and are likely to be lost within 20 years; the same number were lost over the whole of the last century. The scientists say that without the human destruction of nature, this rate of loss would have taken thousands of years and they warn that this may be a tipping point for the collapse of civilisation.”  (


Artists Can Intercept the Cycle!

Artist Aurora Robson uses the word “intercept” to talk about the obstruction that artists can create in stopping waste and debris from ending up in a landfill or in the ocean.  She has been creating her own work and teaching others for many years. By using what is discarded as a material, we can create valuable products that people treasure and remove from a path to landfills.





I would like to contribute to her effort and to all of those artists who are already intercepting waste through their art.  I feel like we need to be more organized and have a larger reach, but realized that I also need to learn more about what we are dealing with, so I started the Artizan ReMade Study Group.  We have been meeting on Facebook for a couple of months now.  There are about 100 of us so far, mostly seasoned artists who are already using waste as a material or working with natural supplies. We will work with different topics and document some of our findings here, Artizan Made’s blog.  If you would like to receive our posts by email, subscribe to our blog in the sidebar.


We have also started a Pinterest board where I am saving links, videos and artwork that seem impactful. I will continue to add to it over time.


Fast Fashion


We chose fast fashion as our first topic.  It is a huge arena with loads of links out there.  We can’t even begin to address the problem in a comprehensive way, but we did hit on some interesting information that can hopefully be useful to you as you talk to your people about this problem.

Google’s definition of fast fashion:

“Fast fashion is the business model of replicating recent catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them at a low cost, and bringing them to retail quickly while demand is at its highest. The term fast fashion is also used generically to describe the products of this business model.”


The impact of fast fashion on our resources is enormous.  The fashion industry used to have two cycles of new styles a year.  Now it is continuous with no satiation, a constant thirst for what is new and what is next.  There are huge fabric dumps in Chile and in a few African countries that are so huge that they can be seen from space. As much of these fabrics contain synthetic materials they do not biodegrade and will continue to grow as a problem. Coherent Market Insights studies trends, working with companies so that they can make informed decisions.  They expect that the fast fashion industry will triple in the near future:


“Global Fast Fashion Market size was valued at US$ 39.90 Billion in 2023 and is expected to reach US$ 99.84 Billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% from 2023 to 2030.”


The article lists important market and behavior trends that help explain why this is happening.  Access to the internet and social media are two of the big game changers, along with availability of larger sizes, body image changes and increased disposable incomes, especially in the Asia Pacific region.  The shocking thing to me is how short the life cycle of a product has become. What used to be worn for over a year is now discarded after a few weeks.  Part of this is due to poorly made products that fall apart after a few washes, but most of it is really a matter of attention and boredom, needing to change constantly in order to feel alive…


Fast Fashion and Its Environmental Impact from
Fast Fashion and Its Environmental Impact from  photo by Chin Leong Teo and Earthday both have excellent resources where you can learn more about how fast fashion is impacting our world.


Earthday, especially, has wonderful resources on this topic!  Have a look and go down the rabbit hole!

Discussion questions you can use:

  • Which organizations are keeping track of this data, both on a global and local level? What is the data?
  • Which garment companies are the most ethical and how are they taking the lead to make a difference?
  • Which are the most to blame and why?
  • What online efforts are out there that have interesting programs that we like and can support?
  • Which artists are making an impact with their work? Who do you admire?
  • What is happening locally where you live and can you interview them? Do a little video?
  • What are you doing to combat this? (Upcycling? Mending? Buying used? Creating art? etc.)



Why has fast fashion been so successful at luring people into this throw away behavior?

We had a good discussion on why this is happening. Here are some of the reasons our group identified:
  • Fast Fashion is cheap. Slow Fashion is expensive.
  • Social media has shortened our attention span and reinforced behavior that needs constant stimulation and it affects all of our buying patterns.
  • Fake sites and scams push cheap products.
  • Cheap goods don’t last and fall apart quickly.
  • Body shame leads to constant attempts at finding clothes that might make one look better and feel more confident.
  • Seasonal collections are no longer relevant and have been replaced by constant updating of what’s fashionable.
  • People don’t know how to do basic repairs anymore.
  • Discomfort of shopping at thrift stores or of knowing how to make used clothing look fresh.
  • Alterations are expensive and there are not enough people offering that service.
  • Ignorance on where things come from and on the consequences of this behavior.

Actions we identified about what we can do:

  • Teach children and adults basic skills in sewing and other home economics types of knowledge. If schools aren’t doing it, set up after school programs.
  • Have swap meets where people can trade clothing or goods.
  • Support thrift stores and creative reuse centers.  
  • Push for legislation that penalizes those companies that are dumping bad goods on the public.
  • Educate people about the impact of fast fashion.


I really enjoyed learning about what different creative reuse centers and maker spaces are doing, including having fashion competitions made out of upcycled materials.  One of our Artizan Made members, Gini of SuiteVirginia, has been actively involved with Redding Fashion Alliance, a maker space where she lives which teaches sewing, has fashion shows and has participated in animal rescues when California fires raged through their area.  They have a core focus on sustainability.


SuiteVirginia - Curtain to Cocktails -hand printed curtains
SuiteVirginia – Curtain to Cocktails -hand printed curtains




Who is behind this craziness in Fast Fashion? 

I have a special beef with Temu and wanted to learn more about them. They pop up everywhere and make smoke come out of my ears….  Let’s take them as an example as there are many others who are playing the same game.  Temu’s packages are bright orange and can easily be identified by mail workers.  I saw a video of semi trucks backing up to conveyor belts with mail, mostly packages from Amazon and Temu. It was mind boggling!  Have you heard of “Temu Tired”?  This postal worker, Sean Fogelson, went viral with his complaints about Temu deliveries:



I have a friend who is a postal worker here in Paducah and I asked her if Temu was a problem.  She said that when they first launched in 2022, they were flooded with the packages, but that it has slowed down.  She also said that Amazon will be setting up their own delivery system and will no longer use the United States Post Office in the near future. They are afraid about whether there will be enough business to keep them in business, a fine line between overworking and not enough work.


I had a feeling that forced labor was involved in the production of Temu’s products as it would explain how they are able to sell products so cheaply. I found an excellent article on Vox that answered most of my questions.


Points that caught my eye:

  • Temu launched in September 2022 and has more than 100 million active users in the US.
  • Temu feeds our desire for novelty at a cheap price.
  • Google Trends data shows that searches for Temu are highest in Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama, states with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. (I live in Kentucky.)
  • Their direct competition is Amazon.
  • By June 2023, Temu had a monthly gross merchandise volume (GMV) — the total value of the goods it sells — of $1 billion, according to Business of Apps. That pales in comparison to Amazon’s estimated annual GMV of about $477 billion, but it’s head-spinning for a company that hadn’t even reached its first birthday. Shein, which launched in 2008, had an annual revenue of about $610 million in 2016, based on Business of Apps’ data; it didn’t really explode in popularity until the pandemic.
  • Its parent company is PDD Holdings, a juggernaut of Chinese e-commerce that also owns Pinduoduo, a massively popular Chinese online shopping site.
  • Temu loses about $30 for every order placed. It baits people and then gets the money back by charging more for other items which end up costing more than their counterparts on Amazon.
  • Temu is entirely a third-party marketplace: an online platform that essentially matches sellers with consumer demand.
  • Forced labor: the US Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party released an interim report alleging that there was an “extremely high risk” that Temu’s supply chain uses forced Uyghur labor — prohibited in the US under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. (See the link and video posted in the comments.)
  • Temu also keeps prices low by shipping directly to the customer from their factories and it can take weeks for the product to arrive.

The article is well written and I recommend reading the whole thing. It’s not too long.


NPR (National Public Radio, USA) just published this report on Temu which touched on several interesting points that I hadn’t seen:


“Also worth noting: Pinduoduo’s app and website — but not Temu itself — has for several years been on the U.S. list of “Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy,” recently updated by the Office of the United States Trade Representative.”  Legislators have been trying to limit their presence in the United States. 


The following video shows the stark reality Uighur workers in China face as they are forced to work for these companies.



Other Players


Safiya Nygaard has a YouTube channel with over 10 million subscribers.  (!!!)  A friend sent me the link to a video she did on the marketing that goes behind fast fashion.  I didn’t want to watch it because it is almost half an hour long and like so many, my attention span isn’t great these days…  But, I did and I was wowed!  She is such an excellent investigator!  No wonder she has so many followers…


She saw that a dress was being advertised by several different shopping sites ranging from $4-$200.  She ordered from all of them and documented what she got.  The cheaper ones didn’t even look like the original image. I highly recommend watching and sharing her video. Sadly, even if people get crappy products or if they are duped by a nonexistent business that disappears,  they still keep voting for them with their money.





Where are all of the discarded clothes going?

Green America tells the story:

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports that Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over six percent of total municipal waste (for context, plastics make up 13 percent of our waste stream). On average, 700,000 tons of used clothing gets exported overseas and 2.5 million tons of clothing are recycled. But over three million tons are incinerated, and a staggering 10 million tons get sent to landfills.”


One Example of Thrift Stores:

“One popular charity shop chain is Goodwill, which reports that it offers many opportunities for the clothes to be resold, although roughly five percent of donated clothes are directly sent to landfills, largely due to mildew issues, which can contaminate entire bales of clothing. The rest remain in the 3,200 stores for four weeks before being moved to Goodwill outlets, found in 35 states, where items are sold for 99 cents per pound.

What doesn’t sell at the outlets is then sent to Goodwill Auctions, where huge “mystery” bins full of items are sold for as little as $35 each. Finally, what clothing remains gets sent to textile recycling centers where they will be cut into rags, processed into softer fiber used for filling furniture and building insulation, or sent overseas.”



Literally tons of used clothing are sent to Africa and South America and have jeopardized local production and industry. It’s a mess!  African leaders have made attempts at boycotting imported second hand goods but there are too many small businesses that are now tied into buying and reselling these commodities. The United Nations has a report that looks at the impact of these clothes in Africa:


“In 2015, East Africa imported $151 million worth of used clothes and shoes, mostly from Europe and the United States, where consumers regularly buy new clothes and dispose of old ones, often giving them away to charities. At least 70% of donated garments end up in Africa, according to Oxfam, a British charity that also sells used donated clothes on the continent.With a combined 36.1% of the global share, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany were the top three used clothes exporters in 2015. The United Arab Emirates (7.3%), Pakistan (5.0%) and India (4.4%) were the top importers, while Kenya, a distant 12th in global ranking, was sub-Saharan Africa’s top destination with 2.2% (US$95 million) of global import.”


Used clothes market in Kitwe, Zambia. Photo: AfricaMediaOnline/ Paul Weinberg
Used clothes market in Kitwe, Zambia. Photo: AfricaMediaOnline/ Paul Weinberg


Return to Sender projectBobby Kolade is a Ugandan fashion designer, founder of Buzigahill and co-host of the Vintage or Violence podcast.  He wrote an article for The Guardian saying that boycotting these goods was not the way to go.


Buzigahill’s strategy is a fantastic action of empowerment and “in your face”:

“We are a Kampala-based clothing brand that works between art, fashion and activism. For our first project series called RETURN TO SENDER, we redesign second-hand clothes and redistribute them to the Global North, where they were originally discarded before being shipped to Uganda.”

The t-shirt is priced at US $160.  Hat and pants are also made from salvaged American clothing.


He also has a line of locally produced garments and advocates for investing in local growing and techniques:

“There are local alternatives which may not create 2,000 jobs at once, but are replicable in eco-friendly settings in rural areas. Support Ugandan silk farmers; reintroduce hand-weaving to rural women’s groups; restructure and empower the cotton industry so it can rebound to its former glory; invest in hemp and bamboo fibre production. Raw material production should always be at the core of any textile industry, and with the abundance of resources in Uganda, we have the potential to excel at sustainable fibre production.”


Slow Fashion


The opposite of fast fashion is slow fashion, usually creating one of a kind garments that take time. In between the two extremes (one of a kind versus mass marketing) are fair trade groups and socially conscious fashion houses which create garments on a larger production scale but are still limited in both their turn around and their reach. The fashionistas can be very pricey and exclusive, so are not really a competition at all for the low end markets, but most of the fair traders tend to sell in an affordable range.  I know two fair trade groups quite well that I have followed for years and watched how they developed their businesses:

MayaMam Weavers  are a group of women from Guatemala who weave home accessories and wearables. They have been long time supporters of Artizan Made (see their member profile) and I have known of them since they first started. They learned the ropes quickly, constantly improving their photos, their presentation, and their offerings. Their workmanship is excellent and they have done several community things to improve the lives of the women: purchased propane stoves for each household, have a wonderful childcare facility and lots of programs for kids, built a new weaving facility, etc. They plant a tree for every sale they make, participating in a local reforestation effort. They use commercial cotton thread for their weavings.

Mayamam Weavers a fair trade cooperative in Guatemala
Mayamam Weavers a fair trade cooperative in Guatemala


I’ve known them almost from the beginning, too, and worked at their warehouse in the Chicago area for a year, so I learned a lot about what happens on the back end. Their operation is huge, involving many collectives in India who focus on different handmade skills like dyeing, block printing, batik, ikat weaving and embroidery. They sold via catalog only for many years until the internet became a reliable tool. They still publish their paper catalog although they have increased their “web only” offerings.


MarketPlace: Handwork of India, eco fashion
MarketPlace: Handwork of India, eco fashion


They create two new collections a year, a massive effort even when they repeat silhouettes. All of the fabrics, embroidery, dye processes are new for each collection. This takes a lot of coordination and one of the things that MarketPlace has succeeded in has been in training the women to rise to positions of leadership and responsibility. The impact on the lives of the women and their families has been tremendous.

There are many other examples of excellent groups and designers who are working to create fair employment and rescue skills that have been disappearing rapidly around the world. Their challenge is to offer work that can pay enough to compete with what other factories and entry level places are paying.

Agriculture and craft production have always gone hand in hand, even in the history of industrialized countries. There has also been a balance between production and consumption because people were involved in both, but as our societies have become more removed from agriculture and small scale production, there is no bond of respect or understanding for the materials and uses.


How toxic are our clothes?

We already know about the toxic waste that the garment industry produces, exposing workers to horrible chemicals and polluting the environment in ways we can hardly begin to understand. Green America has a general article about all of this:
“The impacts of chemicals banned in the final product but allowed in the manufacturing process, like dyes, polyfluorinated chemicals, and flame retardants, are striking. In China, 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are polluted, and in Bangladesh, the Buriganga River is so polluted with toxic chemicals and heavy metals prevalent in the leather tanning industry that it can no longer sustain aquatic life.”
I am a big fan of cotton and have known that it is a water hog for a long time. Same article,
“Cotton is among the most water intensive crops and both organic and conventional clothing manufacturers consume enormous amounts in both farming and textile production. An astonishing 2,700 liters of water are required to grow the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. These watering practices are especially harmful in the primary cotton-growing countries as they often face water scarcity but need to continue cotton production to maintain their economy. In Kyrgyzstan, where water is both contaminated and scarce, many civilians have no access to clean drinking water, even as cotton producers use thousands of liters.”

But, what about wearing the stuff?

I did a quick search and of course, there are loads of articles…. One story was especially scary in The Guardian:
“Mary (whose name I’ve withheld to protect her job) was one of hundreds of Alaska Airlines attendants reporting that year that the uniforms were causing blistering rashes, swollen eyelids crusted with pus, hives, and in the most serious case, breathing problems and allergic reactions so severe that one attendant, John, had to be taken off the plane and to the ER multiple times.
Tests commissioned by Alaska Airlines and the flight attendants’ union turned up tributyl phosphate, lead, arsenic, cobalt, antimony, restricted disperse dyes known to cause allergic reactions, toluene, hexavalent chromium, and dimethyl fumarate, an antifungal that had recently been banned in the European Union. But the uniform maker, Twin Hill, avoided culpability in court by saying none of these many mixed chemicals, on their own, were present at high enough levels to cause all of the different reactions.”

Cottonique reports on the top toxic fabrics:

  1. Nylon – this type of fabric, which usually undergo a permanent chemical finish is made up of petroleum.
  2. Rayon – a type of recycled wood pulp which undergoes treatment using chemicals like sulphuric acid, acetone, caustic soda and ammonia.
  3. Acetate and Triacetate – derived from cellulose, which are wood fibers; this fabric goes through comprehensive chemical processing.
  4. Acrylic – the EPA has reported that the presence of polyacrylonitrile may cause cancer.


Say no to toxic clothing – Cottonique

Let this sink in:

“In the US, there are no federal standards for what can be put on clothing and sold to adults. The EU has banned more than 30 substances for use in fashion, and it will reject some shipments at the border, but its testing program is small and easily skirted.”
How can that be?  A few years back a flip flop story from Walmart made the rounds where people’s feet were getting blistered and inflamed from wearing thongs.
From the same Guardian article linked above, another investigation:
“When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had 38 pieces of children’s clothing tested from the ultra-​fast-​fashion brands Zaful, AliExpress, and Shein, it found that one in five had elevated levels of toxic chemicals such as lead, PFAS, and phthalates. This year, the period panty brand Thinx settled a lawsuit stemming from a test by a Notre Dame professor showing high levels of fluorine, indicating the presence of PFAS, a highly toxic class of “forever chemicals” that provide water and stain repellency.


Some of the chemicals scientists have found in garments – such as tributyl phosphate, dimethyl fumarate, and disperse dyes – can be acutely toxic or hazardous, causing skin reactions or asthma. Others have been proven, outside of their use on clothing, to have links to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies, and skin sensitization.”
No wonder we are so sick!  I found a link to, an organization dedicated to educating about the toxicity that is in our food, environment, and in how things are manufactured. They have loads of resources and this is their page on Fast Fashion.

“Of the over 100 billion new clothes produced each year, around 92 million tons of these items will end up in a landfill [1]. The clothes sit in the sun, where they start to break down, contaminating our air and water.  Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are essentially types of plastic. When they break down, they contribute to microplastic pollution, which can harm marine life and eventually enter our food chain [2].”


One big lesson I have learned during this group study has been that ALL plastics in clothing are damaging to the environment and to people.  I rarely buy anything new and when I do it is a naturally grown fabric.  I thought that if I was thrifting for something, it would not matter as much if it had some synthetic content.  I have a couple pairs of jeans that have elastic blended into the fabric and they are very comfortable.  I have seen lots of garments at Walmart and other stores that include recycled fibers and Patagonia, a company I long held up as a model, was one of the first to make clothing from plastic bottles.  But, all of these, whether they were purchased new or used, release microplastics as they are washed and dried.
Microfibers from textiles are now everywhere.  It is absolutely sickening and terrifying….    The European Environment Agency issued a report with the following main points:
  • Over 14 million tonnes of microplastics have accumulated on the world’s ocean floor according to research estimates. The amounts are increasing every year — causing harm to ecosystems, animals and people.

  • About 8% of European microplastics released to oceans are from synthetic textiles — globally, this figure is estimated at 16-35%. Between 200,000 and 500,000 tonnes of microplastics from textiles enter the global marine environment each year.

  • The majority of microplastics from textiles are released the first few times textiles are washed. Fast fashion accounts for particularly high levels of such releases because fast fashion garments account for a high share of first washes, as they are used for only a short time and tend to wear out quickly due to their low quality.

  • It is possible to reduce or prevent the release of microplastics from textiles, for instance by implementing sustainable design and production processes and caretaking measures that control microplastic emissions during use, and by improving disposal and end-of-life processing.

We have contaminated the earth to a degree that is unimaginable and most people are not conscious of this.


What can we do?

The problem of Fast Fashion is immense. Overwhelming. But, everything we do contributes either to the problem or to the solution. I mentioned a few actions at the top.  As a reinforcement, these are the common solutions I see posted in other articles:


Reduce: The obvious one is to just not buy anything unless you really need it.
Reuse: This can mean upcycling something to give it added value. Chop it, change it, embroider it, etc. It can also refer to supporting thrift stores, garage sales, etc.
Make your own: Sew, knit, crochet, etc. Slow fashion that many of you already practice.
Support green efforts: Shop Fair Trade and companies that contribute to cleaning up the environment and who treat their workers with dignity.
Educate: Be vocal about bad actors. We don’t need to be judgmental or preachy but we can share information over and over.  Most people just don’t know how bad things are or which companies are the worst offenders.


Do not lose heart!  A friend of mine lost hope and felt like what he did made no difference, that things are too far gone.  He is young, only 25 and the future looks dismal.  I am 62 and now feeling the effects of old age.  My generation has failed in our leadership and vision. Still, I believe that we can clean things up if we spread the word, use our buying power to support good efforts, elect people who have the environment as a top priority and participate in local efforts to clean up our world.  My friend found hope in reading a passage from an ancient philosopher who talked about the birds who all know their tasks, that stick by stick, they build their nests.  He saw that, like the birds, he was also a part of a larger picture that is made up of small efforts.


The Fun Part

Members of our ReMade Group on Facebook have been sharing their upcycled work.  It’s wonderful to see what people come up with! There are so many wonderful shares, but here are four that I will feature here. Click on the images to visit their sites:


Danny Mansmith Sewing Machine Sculpture
Danny Mansmith Sewing Machine Sculpture


Anne Marie Desaulniers textile remnants decorative balls
Anne Marie Desaulniers textile remnants decorative balls


Gone Rustic - botanical dyes, eucalyptus leaves on wool top
Gone Rustic – botanical dyes, eucalyptus leaves on wool top
KristineBerg Fiber Fashion - Armour made from license plates
KristineBerg Fiber Fashion – Armour made from license plates


You do not need to be an artist to join our group.  As I described in my introduction to Artizan ReMade, every person has a role.  There are basically three types of workers in a creative community:  Gatherers, hunters and makers.


Gatherers: they sort materials from their waste that others can use.

Hunters: they search for materials that they can use in products or which they can process for others to use.

Makers: they create products from the materials for their own use, for sale or for community efforts.


Join us!  There is much more info posted in our group and you can share your insights and experiences, too!  Please share this post with your friends and leave a comment if you have anything you would like to share about fast fashion.


Be a part of the movement!

Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion.  It’s much more fun, too!  One of a kind garments that show off handmade techniques.  Here is a sampling from our Clothing Collection.  Most of the items are linked to our member’s shop, so go visit them and see what is new!

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