If you shop for clothes, chances are fast fashion is a regular part of your routine. Even if you’re not buying it, you’ll likely come across it when you’re walking through the mall, scrolling through your social media feeds, or looking for a new outfit to buy. At this point, finding cheap, trendy, and brand new clothing is as simple as drinking a cup of coffee. Some brands have been around for decades, and recently, some newer, online-only retailers have taken over the space. What they all have in common is that they sell top trends at the lowest prices.
While having cheap clothing at your fingertips may seem like a dream, fast fashion comes at a cost — and people and the planet are paying it. The clothing produced by these companies is often created using labor employed around the world. It’s also made in large quantities, with materials like plastic, which break down in our water systems. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported by Earth.org, from 2000 to 2015, clothing sales doubled to about 200 billion units per year, while average wear time decreased by 36 percent—which would means that people are throwing away clothes at a higher rate than ever before. The clothes then end up in landfills or second-hand markets, where they affect the health and livelihoods of local communities in the global majority.
Simply put: fast fashion isn’t slowing down, and that’s a big problem for all of us. So how did we get here and what can we do to stop it? Read ahead for more.