Ever wonder why you see a different collection of fashion trends every time you walk by the windows of H&M? Have you ever noticed how you buy that super trendy shirt, dress, jacket, or whatever it may be and the next week it’s out of style and dying on the sale racks? Fashion is meant to embody our four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – but even that seems like it’s a thing of the past with these large fast fashion stores taking over the mainstream fashion industry. Fast fashion is an entire industry built on just that – it’s out of style just as quickly as it was in style making it impossible to keep up with any of the latest trends (1). In fact, fast fashion stores such as Forever 21, Zara, and H&M go through no less than 52 seasons instead of just your typical four. That’s right… 52. Once a week we are slammed with a new ‘season’, a new trend, and a must-have style.
While it may seem easy on your budget to walk out of the store with bags of clothes you paid no more than $50 for, it can actually hurt you, the economy, and our environment heavily in the long run. It seems that the deceivingly low prices are actually blinding us to realizing the harm and impact it is having on the world. We do, however, have the power to stop it. While you may not like what you find, it is important to understand the impact these brands have on humanity, the environment, the economy, and yes, even our own wallets.
1) Fast-Fashion May Not be as Cheap as We Think…
Jeans for $7.50? Sure! Tank tops for $1.50? I’ll take it! That super cute floral summer dress for $10? I can’t pass that up! The truth is, the price tags look extremely enticing when we’re in the stores. We can’t believe the deals we’re getting, and honestly, we could care less why they are so cheap. All we know is that it is easy on our bank accounts. But is it really though?
Fast fashion has this really clever way of blinding us with the price tag. The reality is this has a few different outcomes on our bank accounts. For starters, the materials are cheap. You get what you pay for and if you’re paying $10 for a dress, well it might not hold up in the long run. But fast fashion is also clever in that it doesn’t really matter if it holds up or not since the new season of clothes will hit you in a week anyways. This has led us to treat clothes as disposable. If the button falls off, you’re likely to not fix it. If it tears, you’ll just throw it away. If you get home and don’t love how it looks anymore, you probably won’t return it. And if it’s out of style in a week, well then, you’re definitely not wearing that again. Sure, these clothes might seem cheap, but you are actually spending less money, just more often (2).
Pretty soon all of these ‘cheap clothes’ reach the end of their line and you find yourself running back to the store to get something new or in style. Today, the average person buys about 60 pieces of new clothing every year, sometimes ever more than that, thanks to fast fashion. Well, that adds up pretty quickly. On the other hand, fashion houses offer us something different. Instead of $10 for a dress, maybe instead you invest into your wardrobe and spend $120. Not only will that style last you for a few years – as is the point of high fashion – but it is also extremely durable and made to last. With more conscious materials, tighter seems, and careful patterns or designs, high fashion gives us pieces to a wardrobe rather than just an article of clothing that will be out of style in a week anyways. Sure, you shell out a little more upfront, but you will save more in the long run since you won’t need to buy 60 pieces of clothing every year.
2) Human Trafficking Exists Because of Fast Fashion
It’s the sad truth and one that breaks our hearts over and over. The dark side of fast fashion is the exploitation opportunities it takes advantage of. Ever wonder why these clothes are so cheap? It’s because many women and children are taken from their homes and forced to work in these fast fashion factories for little to no pay and hardly any time off (3). What’s even more startling is the amount of labor abuse happening within these factories. Since majority of these workers are women and children, they are subject to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by their superiors. This is especially true in Asia where labor restrictions are a little looser, and companies are able to get away with these attacks without negative repercussions.
While buying from these fast fashion stores may be innocent, it is actually a direct contribution towards modern day slavery as these companies work to meet the demands of their customers with the lowest prices and exploit even more people to extreme abuse. The good news is, we do have the power to stop this, give people their lives back, and still get the styles we are looking for. One way to do this is by buying second hands clothes – an extremely positive impact not just on humanity but on the environment as well. Buying second hand and donating your clothes when you’re done with them, allows trends and styles to keep circulating rather than constantly producing.
3) The Environment Takes a Big Hit Too
You may be wondering, what does my tank top have to do with the environment? Well, everything. Fast fashion is no ally to the environment and is actually one of the biggest polluters in the world (4). The excessive cheap textile production needed for these materials results in an alarming amount of CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. This alone is enough to take out ecosystems, cause extinction to some of our planets beloved wildlife, and harm the human race. But unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. It is also polluting our gorgeous oceans as well. Did you know that one cotton shirt takes a shocking 2,700 liters to make? This is an extremely unsettling number when you think about how many cotton shirts we see hanging on the racks of these large fast fashion stores.
On top of that, cheap materials, especially Polyester, shed small microfibers that fill our oceans and harm the sea life. Thanks to fast fashion we have seen environmental impacts on our blue seas with coral becoming completely bleached and dying, to our wide array of colorful fish becoming fewer and fewer. The good news is, marine biologists have confirmed that if we do our part the oceans can actually heal themselves. Part of this is going to be ditching fast fashion, and choosing to make a positive impact on our world and the lives that reside in it.
While the information may seem shocking, I do hope it rocked you as much as it rocked us. Gone are the days where fast fashion has a say on human lives, the animal kingdom, and our planet. It’s time we take back our control and give the world the healing that it so desperately needs.