Comedian Hasan Minhaj tackles the fast fashion industry on Netflix

Hasan Minhaj
Public Domain Wikimedia / DoD News photo by EJ Hersom – Hasan Minhaj performs in 2016

His analysis is both informative and humorous – a perfect way to spur people to action.

Comedy and fast fashion don't typically go hand-in-hand, but in the latest episode of his award-winning Netflix Show, Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj does an excellent job of breaking down and analyzing the industry that's causing so much harm to the environment. His humorous jabs and analogies make the topic much more accessible to the audience and had me laughing throughout the episode – something that doesn't typically happen when I'm researching fast fashion.

Minhaj focuses mainly on Zara and H&M, the two main culprits in the fast fashion world. (Rival Forever 21 has just closed down.) He explains that fast fashion has been successful for two reasons. First, it uses 'quick response manufacturing' that knocks off designs from legacy brands, keeps materials on hand, only produces what is popular, and streamlines delivery. It can have new designs on shelves within 4 months, which is far faster than traditional brands' two-year turnaround.

Second, it focuses on 'dynamic assortment.' As Minjah explained, "If quick response helps catch waves fast, dynamic assortment constantly pumps out new products to see what sells." There are 52 seasons in the fast fashion world, with a almost-daily influx of new clothing to stores.

Inditex, which owns Zara, made 1.6 billion pieces of clothing in 2018 and runs nearly 7,500 stores. Since 2005, it has been opening stores at a rate of more than one per day. And it's not all Inditex's fault; we are swarming these stores in search of new outfits for our Instagram posts because heaven forbid we appear in the same thing. One study found that we keep clothing for only half as long as we did twenty years ago. (That could also be because it's not built to last more than a few wears.) There are so many problems with this.

"In 2015, textile production created more greenhouse gases than than international flights & maritime shipping combined. Do you understand what that means? The clothes in your suitcase are screwing up the planet more than the flight you put them on."

Ancient and endangered forests are being razed to produce viscose, rivers are being polluted to dye fabric, and water reservoirs are being drained to irrigate cotton – much of which gets thrown away after a few wears.

Of course fast fashions are trying to appear more eco-friendly, so they fill their stores with ads full of vague terminology with no real definition. As Minhaj says, "It's like when businesses talk about synergy, or when Subway talks about meat. They use ambiguity to sell you the feeling of responsibility."

My favorite part of the episode is near the end when Minhaj shows his own knock-off pop-up store called "H-M" and conducts a brilliant takedown of their greenwashing tactics. He points out a dress that's supposedly eco-friendly because it contains wool, but in reality contains only 4 percent wool. Then a model enters wearing a dress made of plastic dish sponges, with a tiny wool puff on her head – the same wool-to-polyester percentage as the dress. It looks ridiculous.

Next he shows a shirt with a tiny symbol in the corner of the tag, which means it contains recycled material – but only the tag, not the shirt. Minhaj cleverly likens this to putting parsley on a steak and saying, "Enjoy it, vegans!" So, what should a concerned shopper do? In a nutshell, buy second-hand, buy less, and wear your clothes for longer.

The episode is currently available on Netflix, and it's definitely worth a watch.

Comedian Hasan Minhaj tackles the fast fashion industry on Netflix
His analysis is both informative and humorous – a perfect way to spur people to action.

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