For example, fast fashion companies include major retailers such as Shein, Romwe, Topshop and Boohoo. People may think of the rapid growth of fashion as good, but this industry affects the environment, workers, the fashion industry itself and even the consumers who participate in it.
All the elements of fast fashion – fast trends, fast production, low quality – all contribute to a huge environmental impact. Because people only wear these garments a few times before throwing them away, almost 85% of textiles are thrown away each year, according to Human Rights Pulse. In addition, when textiles are thrown away, they take about 200 years to decompose in a landfill.
Textile waste overflows into landfills and releases toxins into the air. The huge carbon footprint from fast fashion is even equal to the footprint from industries like energy and transportation.
As more people dispose of clothes from these companies, they buy clothes more often and the demand for more clothes increases. This leads to companies needing more workers to work cheaply and quickly, which sometimes takes the form of child labor or other objectionable labor practices.
These manufacturers use children to pick cotton, sew clothes and many other jobs just so that people will buy clothes that cost less than $10, as reported by Borgen magazine. Children as young as five work 14 to 16 hours a day, up to seven days a week, and are paid little or nothing just so they can help support their families.
These companies also hire undocumented workers and pay them very little every day. Some get paid around a dollar a day if they are lucky. Companies will hire these workers and sometimes not even pay them for their work. By purchasing these garments, consumers are directly supporting these companies and the unethical treatment of workers.
Apart from the workers, another group in the fashion production arm that suffers is the group of designers and creatives. Selling cheap, trendy clothes is good for companies, but not good for fashion cycles, which is the period when a certain type or item of clothing is popular. Fashion cycles typically range from 30 to 60 weeks, but with more people buying fashion items from these companies, trends go faster, in a week or two.
Some of these companies put out hundreds of designs every day just so people have “options”. Shein, for example, proudly boasts that they add 500 new items every day to “spoil” customers, according to a press release from the company. These designs can be original, or taken from small businesses and designers who have worked hard to produce their products.
For creators, fast fashion brands stealing their work is a total nightmare. They take their designs and manufacture them, without thinking about how much work people put into creating those designs. It’s like copy and paste, but with fashion. This devalues and devalues the work of the creator, turns it into something cheap, making the fashion industry seem toxic and competitive.
Since fashion cycles are short and people feel that they must have the trendiest clothes to match, they turn to fast fashion to fulfill their desires. Some people buy $900 worth of fashion clothing and wear it once before it’s out of style and they throw it away.
This cycle of constant consumerism makes people think that clothes are disposable. This leads to people going shopping but later regretting what they bought, leaving them to sit in cupboards gathering dust until thrown away. Shopping sprees provide a sense of temporary fulfillment, but this can lead to a materialistic mindset where the consumer is never fully satisfied.
Although fast fashion is harmful, it does not mean that everyone should stop buying fast fashion. This does not apply to people who cannot afford more durable brands. People who don’t have high incomes and can’t afford a more sustainable option often value their clothing more, so less of their clothing ends up in landfills.
But it’s the people with higher income levels who buy the bulk goods, spending their money on clothes that will eventually be thrown away. Instead of buying fast fashion, they could have spent their money on something more durable that could be worn for a longer time.
Instead of buying from fast fashion brands, consumers can shop at local thrift stores and still be on top of the latest trends. Fashion trends regenerate every ten to twenty years, according to Thread, so consumers can find clothing from different time periods coming back into fashion.
Websites like ThredUp, Depop, Mercari and Poshmark are also great for buying fashion clothes sustainably. On these websites, people sell “used” clothing, sometimes brand new with tags or with minor flaws. Anyone can sell on these websites, so it’s a great alternative to throwing away clothes and getting more money.
After all, if you have the money to invest in durable, good quality pieces, it’s a great opportunity to do so instead of buying from fast fashion brands. If it’s all you can afford, that’s fine as long as you’ll appreciate it for a long time. In the end, it’s all about being conscious of the impact you have on others and the environment.