An opinion on fast fashion

Grace Campbell, Writer

Have you ever bought clothing and the fabric felt cheap? Or maybe you wear it a few times and it is already falling apart? It is most likely a product of fast fashion. Most teenagers if not all own a piece of clothing produced by a fast-fashion company. Fast-fashion companies include Shien, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Missguided, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, American Eagle, and many more. The average department store is filled with fast fashion clothing. Most of these stores sell extremely cheap clothing. Fast fashion exists to create mass amounts of exact or similar clothing to fill a “fast” fashion cycle. They can be sold for cheaper prices and put in more stores so that they have clothing accessible for even more people, in more sizes. The biggest producer of fast fashion are Western companies commissioning Eastern production factories, where they can legally pay very small wages for bulk orders. Many of these factory workers are being paid very little money for working long hours. There is also an extreme environmental impact of the rapidly growing fashion industry.

The fast fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of carbon emissions. Water sources are being dried up, rivers and streams are being polluted. Instead of recycling the fabric that is not used or too small to be turned into clothing, 85% goes to dumps each year. Fast fashion’s biggest global impacts come from dyeing and finishing, yard preparation, and fiber production. These stages have caused an extremely high impact on resource depletion. Fossil fuels are used to carry out many of the stages of the production of clothing. As result, this increases carbon emissions. The fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water. It takes 700 gallons of water to make a shirt and 2,000 for a pair of jeans, according to Rashmila Maiti with Earth.org. The leftover water is polluted and dumped in bodies of water. Cotton plays an extremely large part in a direct impact as well. Farmers must use a large number of pesticides. Pesticides can cause severe health risks to farmers and even animals. So, when purchasing cotton clothing make sure it is organic. Organic cotton is much better for the environment.

The majority of people who make our clothing are women between the ages of 18-24. The US Department of Labor found evidence of forced child labor. The countries that contribute to this are Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, and many more. There have been many incidents that have directly caused the death of people. In 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh an eight-floor factory building collapsed. The building had several factories that produced garments. It killed 1,134 people and injured more than 2,500 people.

What can you do? Purchasing clothing with 100% of natural and substantial fabrics can help prevent waste. These fabrics are silk, organic cotton, linen, hemp, and lyocell. The clothing will be of much better quality as well. As a response to fast fashion “slow fashion” has been established to help combat many of these problems. It uses sustainable resources, recycles waste and they make sure they are protecting the environment. The UN has even created the “Alliance for Sustainable Fashion”. Additionally, “thrifting” is always an option. Thrift stores have clothing cheaper or equal to fast fashion prices and are much more sustainable for the environment. If you are afraid of thrift stores or the store does not have clothing that fits your style, then you can shop online on secondhand websites or stores. Some options are Depop, Poshmark, ThredUp Inc., Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and many more.

Purchasing clothing produced from fast fashion is not something to be ashamed of if you purchase a few pieces and wear them very frequently. However, if you are overconsuming and wearing the products only a few times then you are helping fund the industry and as a result a larger production of the clothing. The reason styles and trends change so frequently is a consequence of fast fashion. Next time you go shopping for clothing think about where these products are coming from. Maybe go to a thrift store or a sustainable store instead of a store that produces fast fashion.