Fast fashion is a global epidemic that has plagued mainstream clothing for years. The term “fast fashion” refers to clothing retailers quickly replicating popular clothing, and inexpensively mass producing replicas of popular styles. Brands capitalize on fashion trends and pump out cheap clothing to match expanding consumer demand. Retailers put newly fashionable clothes on shelves for consumers, and quickly remove items that fall out of favor, keeping products in an endless rotation.
This process has proven to be immensely profitable in most circumstances. Some of the greatest perpetrators of fast fashion are mall staple brands like Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, Forever21, and Victoria’s Secret. However, these issues aren’t exclusive to this type of store.
They can even be traced to retailers such as Target and Walmart. Online fast fashion retailers such as Shein and ASOS have also been exploding in popularity over the last few years. To give you an idea of just how “fast” this fashion truly is, it’s been reported that Shein and ASOS release THOUSANDS of new “styles” per week.
Why is fast fashion clothing so popular?
There are two main factors. Price, and convenience. For one thing, the clothing that fast fashion brands sell costs moderately to significantly less than higher-quality alternatives.
Also, fast fashion brands are super convenient since most American’s have access to typical shopping malls. These two elements perfectly intersect with one another. It makes sense that these brands are so popular. Consider that the average American consumer is price-conscious, obsessed with convenience, and generally unwilling to put much of that time into shopping for clothes.
Sure, there are some aspects of this phenomenon that you could consider beneficial. For instance, this trend generally allows people with very tight budgets to find clothes they like.
Kids and teenagers may not necessarily beg their parents to buy them the newest, “coolest,” overpriced crappy brand that “everyone else” is wearing. Consumers have more access to a wider variety of clothes, for a more reasonable price than ever.
However, you will find that these “benefits” are FAR outweighed by the numerous issues associated with fast fashion. Supporting fast fashion brands fuel fires. Fires that have many woes in terms of human rights issues, and negative environmental impact
Fast fashion clothing is horrible for the planet
Have you ever purchased something from a fast fashion retailer, then gone back for the same product only to find that it’s nowhere to be found? If you have, you aren’t alone.
Since a major part of the fast fashion phenomenon is constant clothing turnover, clothes leave the shelves very quickly, and sometimes well before the products are sold out. This quick turnaround time yields a specific question. What do they do with all those clothes that don’t sell?
The answer is not something you want to hear. Most of the time, they simply throw them away and flood landfills with unsold clothes. Some retailers are even known or rumored to burn unused clothes. According to the EPA, over 9 million tons of clothes and footwear were sent to landfills in 2018.
Although fast fashion is not the only contributor to this issue, it is a major part of this increased wastefulness. It’s not only because the introduction of new products and removal of old ones is fast and constant.
It is also because the quality of a fast fashion product is typically very poor, and must be discarded much quicker than more quality clothing. Retailers are okay with selling super cheap clothes because it costs them very little to make cheap clothes, and they know that you are going to need more down the road.
If that isn’t enough, just remember that it’s highly unlikely to find fast fashion retailers that have organic, sustainable, or responsibly sourced clothes. Most fast fashion retailers make clothes made from cheap, earth-unfriendly fabrics and materials.
Despite most clothing production being wasteful by nature, it is safe to say that fast fashion is the worst due to non-sustainable clothes, and the high volume of wasted clothing. This fashion trend is ripping through the environment by mass-producing cheap clothing, and there is no silver lining in how the industry treats its workers either.
Brands are often awful to workers
For years, it has been well documented that the garment and clothing industry has subjected its manufacturers to unfair, unsafe working conditions.
This is mostly because about 90 percent of the world’s clothing comes from low to low-middle-income countries, where labor is extremely cheap, and working standards are loose and unenforced.
Fast fashion, unsurprisingly, is one of the greatest culprits of this phenomenon. Companies are able to sell their clothes for so much less than competitors because they get them from manufacturers for next to no money. The pitfalls of the newest fashion trend, engendered by cheap clothing know no bounds.
It’s impossible to overstate the constant human rights violations associated with the Chinese garment industry. However, these human rights issues span far across the world and aren’t solely a Chinese issue. The vast majority of total major brands have next to no transparency regarding whether or not their suppliers are paid living wages.
So why do American consumers purchase clothes from companies with these labor practices? Americans have known about labor issues in developing countries for decades, so why do we continue to show exploitative companies support? It is because, again, we are far more concerned with price and convenience than we are with quality and fairness.
Some companies have even had major issues with their US based employees as well. The US Department of Labor found that a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer that made clothing for fast fashion mogul Forever 21 was operating under “sweatshop-like conditions.”
They reportedly broke several labor laws, including, but not limited to, withholding wages and paying workers flat rates for 50+ hour work weeks. Not only that, but Forever 21 is also part of a class-action lawsuit by store associates who claimed that they were consistently forced to work off the clock, and not compensated for the extra hours worked.
Forever 21 is far from the only fast fashion retailer with accusations like this. Countless others have faced similar accusations. Fast fashion harbor’s an attitude of carelessness. Obsession with their bottom lines no matter who gets hurt or neglected along the way.
Buy less, buy better
If you take one thing away from this article it should be this: buy better.
You are helping nobody when you support fast fashion retailers. Buying their clothes supports environmental irresponsibility, human rights issues, and overall shady business practices.
Not only that, but the clothes are awful. Ask yourself whether it’s worth it to buy cheap clothes that you will have to replace. You may end up spending more money in total on cheap clothes than good quality ones.
You are so much better off paying more money for fewer, more quality clothing. Have the clothes you buy become staples of your wardrobe.
Buy clothes from companies with a firm commitment to quality. Support retailers who pledge supply chain transparency. Stop buying crap from the mall. It’s horrible for everyone.