In a world of ever-evolving trends and styles, where, in order to stay relevant, wardrobes are replaced in a matter of months, fast fashion has taken over. But can the world continue to mass produce more and more pieces of clothing? Environmentally, we can’t and ethically, we shouldn’t.
Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing that is quickly produced in large quantities to capture trends as they happen. At least half a dozen brands might come to mind; companies like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara.
The effect of fast fashion on the environment is detrimental. When so many pieces of clothing are produced in such a short amount of time and culture encourages us to wear the latest trends, wearable clothes are wasted. Only 1% of these textiles are recycled, leaving the majority to end up in landfills. Clothing dye alone is the second largest polluter of the earth’s clean water.
The other component of fast fashion’s harm lies in labor practices that can only be described as shady. Do you know the name of the person who sewed your jeans, or even what country they live in? Probably not.
In 2013, a factory in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, collapsed due to an unsafe structure, killing 1134 workers and injuring thousands more. Many companies that manufactured there, including popular American brands, have yet to compensate the survivors or the families of victims. It’s disgusting that rather than being held accountable, these brands are as successful as ever.
In addition, many of the workers in these factories are forced to work in dangerous conditions for unlivable wages and frequently, fast fashion brands employ many of the 170 million child laborers in the world. Victoria’s Secret was discovered to have used children to pick the “organic, fairtrade certified” cotton that makes up their clothing.
Though fast fashion is inexpensive, available, and current, it isn’t worth the direct harm is causes to people and the planet. There are many alternatives that can help you put your money where your morals are.
For starters, don’t throw away your clothes. If you don’t like that top anymore, upcycle it by cropping it, ironing on a graphic, or put some patches on it. If you really can’t wear something anymore, give it to a friend or to a thrift store.
Buy your clothes second hand. If you love a certain brand or style that you’re not sure you can find in a thrift store, online thrift stores like Depop or ThredUP let you search for specific things or sell clothes that you just don’t wear but were too expensive to give away.
When it comes to fast fashion, the worst thing you can be is apathetic. Use your power as a consumer to support sustainable brands and practices.