H&M, Zaful, Forever 21, Zara, Shein: Teenagers’ go-to brands are not only notorious for their stylish clothing, but also their lasting effects on the planet. For the most part, there is no ignoring the faults of these multi-million dollar companies. The cheap and cute clothes distract many from the true inside workings, factory conditions, employee treatment, and the exploitation of materials. This is not accounted for but, must be.
What is Fast Fashion?
According to Ethical Consumer, “Fast fashion is ‘fast’ in a number of senses: the rate of production is fast; the customer’s decision to purchase is fast; delivery is fast; and garments are worn fast, usually only a few times before being discarded. It is a model that is entirely unsustainable.” The mass production of goods is precisely how these industries flourish. They are quick in updating products the minute something becomes insignificant in the world of fashion. If their cheap prices weren’t convincing enough to draw in materialistic consumers, then their up-to-date products will.
These clothes are, essentially, “too good to be true.” The reason why the prices are so desirable and inexpensive is a direct result of cheap production, poor employee treatment, and the fragility of the materials used. They are virtually made to be worn a couple of times and then thrown away. In a New York Times article, it is stated that “Fast-fashion brands may not design their clothing to last (and they don’t), but as artifacts of a particularly consumptive era, they might become an important part of the fossil record” (Schlossberg).
Environmental Degradation Instigated by Fast Fashion
The constant alterations to current fashion trends inherently makes for a wasteful society. This society, then, reflects on the fashion industries and their attempts to appease consumers. Materialism and commercialization of the fashion world is a huge contributing factor to the environments degradation. We live in a “throw away” society which has now invaded the top clothing industries. It is all about how much you can get for minimal money usage. This ideology inhabits both the consumer’s and producer’s mindsets.
To quote New York Times once more, Tatiana Schlossberg exclaims, “More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), it will not decay.” On top of materials that are already discarded each day, clothes are being gradually and increasingly added to it. Due to the endurability of these products, often times they do not last longer than a few wears. This is mostly because they were not made to. These industries are training consumers to buy their cheap clothes, wear them once or twice, throw them away, and then go buy a newer and better piece. A constant cycle that has shaped modern-day shoppers. In fact, “The fashion industry is the second-most-polluting industry—coming in right behind big oil—according to the UN. The fashion industry not only produces 10% of global carbon emissions, but also contributes 20% of waste water production” (Rao). These industries are the essence of a global injustice being perpetuated against our planet adding on to the other prevalent violations.
How You Can Help
This problem is a big one and it will take immense reparation to abolish the damage it has placed on consumers and the environment. But, nonetheless, you can do your part to help. One of the best ways to do this is buying second hand. Thrift stores have cute clothes that are usually quite durable. Rather than buying new clothes, you can purchase new, old clothes with a clear conscious. In fact, after you are finished with these products, instead of throwing them away, you can donate them back. It is challenging to train yourself out of a materialistic mindset, but with knowing you are helping the planet and contributing to kinder industries that work to support lower-class communities, it will be worth it.
List of Apparent Fast Fashion Industries:
- Forever 21
- Top Shop
- Urban Outfitters
- Hot Topic
- Fashion Nova
Crumbie, Alex. “What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It a Problem?” Ethical Consumer, 31 Oct. 2019, http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem.
Rao, Pavithra. “Battling the Damaging Effects of ‘Fast Fashion’ | Africa Renewal.” United Nations, United Nations, 2019, http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2019-march-2020/battling-damaging-effects-%E2%80%98fast-fashion%E2%80%99.
Schlossberg, Tatiana. “How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Sept. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html.