Fast fashion is a global epidemic that has plagued mainstream clothing for years. The term “fast fashion” refers to clothing retailers rapidly reproducing popular clothing and mass producing replicas of popular styles inexpensively. Brands are capitalizing on fashion trends and offering inexpensive clothing to meet growing consumer demand. Retailers are bringing the newly fashionable clothes to consumer shelves and quickly pulling out items that are no longer in fashion, keeping products in an endless rotation.
This process has proven to be extremely profitable under most circumstances. Some of the biggest writers in fast fashion are staple mall brands like Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, Forever21, and Victoria’s Secret. However, these problems are not exclusive to this type of store.
They can even be attributed to retailers such as Target and Walmart. Online fast fashion retailers such as Shein and ASOS have also exploded in popularity in recent years. To give you an idea of how “fast” this fad is, Shein and ASOS have been reported to release THOUSANDS of new “styles” per week.
Why are fast fashion clothes so popular?
There are two main factors. Price and convenience. For one thing, the clothes that fast fashion brands sell cost moderately to significantly less than the better quality alternatives.
Plus, fast fashion brands come in handy as most Americans have access to typical shopping malls. These two elements intersect perfectly. It makes sense that these brands are so popular. Consider the average American consumer to be price conscious, obsessed with convenience, and generally unwilling to spend a lot of their time shopping for clothes.
Of course, there are some aspects of this phenomenon that you might consider beneficial. For example, this trend usually allows people with very tight budgets to find clothes that appeal to them.
Kids and teens don’t necessarily beg their parents to buy them the newest, coolest, overpriced brand of crap that “everyone” wears. Consumers have more access to a greater variety of clothing, at a more reasonable price than ever before.
However, you will find that these “advantages” are far outweighed by the many problems associated with fast fashion. Supporting fast fashion brands fuels the fires. Fires that have many problems in terms of human rights and negative environmental impact
. Here are some of the many reasons why you should say “no” to fast fashion.
Fast fashion clothes are horrible on the planet
Have you ever bought something from a fast fashion retailer and then returned for the same product only to find it cannot be found? If so, you are not alone.
Since a big part of the fast fashion phenomenon is the constant renewal of clothes, clothes leave the shelves very quickly, and sometimes long before the products run out. This quick turnaround time gives rise to a specific question. What do they do with all these clothes that don’t sell?
The answer is not something you want to hear. Most of the time, they just throw them away and flood the landfill with unsold clothes. Some retailers are even known or rumored to burn unused clothing. According to the EPA, more than 9 million tonnes of clothing and shoes were sent to landfills in 2018.
While fast fashion is not the only contributor to this problem, it is a significant part of this increased waste. It’s not just because the introduction of new products and the retirement of old ones are fast and constant.
This is also because the quality of a fast fashion product is usually very poor and needs to be thrown away much faster than top quality clothes. Retailers are willing to sell really cheap clothes because it costs very little to make cheap clothes, and they know you’ll need more down the road.
If that’s not enough, remember that it’s very unlikely to find fast fashion retailers that offer organic, sustainable, or responsibly sourced clothing. Most fast fashion retailers make clothes made from inexpensive, environmentally friendly fabrics and materials.
While most clothing production is waste by nature, it is safe to say that fast fashion is the worst due to unsustainable clothing and the high volume of wasted clothing. This fashion trend is tearing the environment apart by mass-producing cheap clothing, and there’s no silver lining to the way the industry treats its workers, either.
Brands are often horrible for workers
For years, it has been well documented that the clothing industry has subjected its manufacturers to unfair and unsafe working conditions.
This is mainly because about 90 percent of the world’s clothing comes from low- and middle-income countries, where labor is extremely cheap and labor standards are loose and unenforced.
Fast fashion, unsurprisingly, is one of the biggest culprits of this phenomenon. Companies are able to sell their clothes at a much lower price than their competitors because they get them from manufacturers for almost no money. The traps of the new fashion trend, created by cheap clothes, know no bounds.
It is impossible to overstate the constant human rights violations associated with the Chinese garment industry. However, these human rights issues extend far into the world and are not just a Chinese problem. The vast majority of total big brands have virtually no transparency as to whether or not their suppliers are getting a living wage.
So why do American consumers buy clothes from companies with these working practices? Americans have known about labor market problems in developing countries for decades, so why do we continue to show our support for exploitative companies? This is because, again, we care much more about price and convenience than quality and fairness.
Some companies have even had major problems with their employees based in the United States. The US Department of Labor found that a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer that made clothes for fast-paced fashion mogul Forever 21 was operating under “sweatshop-like conditions.”
They allegedly violated several labor laws, including, but not limited to, withholding wages and paying workers flat rates for work weeks of more than 50 hours. Not only that, but Forever 21 is also part of a class action lawsuit brought by store associates who claimed they were systematically forced to work off the clock and unpaid for overtime worked.
Forever 21 is far from the only fast fashion retailer to make such accusations. Countless others have faced similar charges. Wearing fast fashion is a carefree attitude. Obsession with their results no matter who gets hurt or neglected along the way.
Buy less, buy better
If you take one thing from this article, it should be this: buy better.
You are not helping anyone when you support fast fashion retailers. The purchase of their clothes supports environmental irresponsibility, human rights issues and shady business practices in general.
Not only that, but the clothes are horrible. Consider whether it is worth buying cheap clothes that you will need to replace. You might end up spending more money in total on inexpensive clothes than on good quality clothes.
You are so much better off paying more for fewer and better clothes. Make the clothes you buy a staple in your wardrobe.
Buy clothes from companies with a firm commitment to quality. Support retailers who promise supply chain transparency. Stop buying shit at the mall. It’s horrible for everyone.