I’ve been hesitant to post this because I haven’t completely cut fast-fashion out of my life yet, but today I’ll be discussing how the fashion industry destroys our environment and corrupts workers with unlivable wages/conditions.
Some of you may have already heard the negative hype around the words “fast fashion”. For those of you that haven’t, please keep reading.
I’ve always loved fashion. I follow runway collections fairly well and want to stay on top of what designers are doing each season. With that, I’ve accumulated a consumerist impulse to update my wardrobe all the time. I do shop when I grow out of clothes or when my staple pieces need replacement, but I’ve noticed I feel like I need to be buying more than just that. After Gucci’s ss16 collection, I totally tried to get quirky glasses, large earrings, and patches for my wardrobe.
This materialistic impulse is just what the fashion elites want you to experience. Fast-fashion stores are your H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, Zara, etc. that continuously update their stores with new pieces. It’s almost frightening how quickly they duplicate high-fashion looks and stock fresh garments each day. If you’re unsure if a store is “fast-fashion” or not, evaluate the cost of their clothing, how frequently they restock merchandise, and the quality of their pieces
A documentary I haven’t seen yet, but heard raving reviews about, is called the True Cost. It exposes the unlivable wages and environmental impact that these fast-fashion retailers undergo just to sell trendy, cheap clothing. Us consumers don’t like to think about how a $5 dress was manufactured and how these poor-quality clothes impact our landfill once we throw them out. As John Oliver comically said, “Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever, and cheap clothing is trendier than ever,” (Brucculieri 2015). Watch Oliver’s video on fast fashion here.
I want to clear up that yes, I have glorified Zara for their graphic shirts, culottes, trendy jeans. I do own a ton of clothes from H&M, Topshop, Free People, a.k.a. the typical offenders of what I’m speaking out against. But, I have learned the horrid practices used by big businesses and want to speak out against these inequities. A quote I live my life by is Michelangelo’s “I am still learning” which I hope you all do to bring justice to our planet and its workers.
1.) The money you with fast-fashion save is ruining a life.
Thought sweatshops were a thing of the 90’s?!
Yes, big companies like Old Navy, Nike, etc. have been heavily reprimanded for their unfair labor practices and outsourcing strategies. But, consumers are still not paying the true price for manufacturing. How is a T-Shirt from Forever 21 still $2? Large companies not only exploit workers through extremely low wages, but use low quality textiles that often have toxic chemicals which leads to hospitalizations. But… “I don’t mind low quality clothes, I can just get a new pair of jeans!” The point is people today wouldn’t want their younger sister or grandmother working in these horrific conditions, yet turn their shoulder when these poor conditions occur a great distance away.
2.) The money you save with fast-fashion is ruining our planet.
I was very surprised to find out that fashion is one of the world’s dirtiest industries and polluters to our planet. Typically, the media demonizes oil tycoons, but fails to undercover how trendy retailers are doing the same. People don’t usually lump oil pollution with what comes from the shirts on our backs.
While cotton, especially organic cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans (Sweeny 2015).
Toxic dyes, pesticides in cotton farming, natural resources in extraction, and water are all in the supply process. Since our fashion industry is working to produce even faster and faster, big businesses are exploiting workers as globalization speeds up. Eileen Fischer talked about pollution and how she’s working to tackle harsh practices in fashion.
3.) The money you save with fast-fashion can still buy clothing.
But…I don’t have enough money to shop at high-brand stores?! I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on a plain white t-shirt!!!
A couple of things…
You don’t need to buy new piece every weekend.
Instead of having 5 cheap shirts, 2 skirts, 2 dresses, and one pair of shoes, you could buy one quality blouse and dress. This trade off doesn’t sound convincing for some of you. I understand you want to have new, trendy clothes all the time, I did too, but you are making an ethical decision to cut down on consumerism. You’ll be able to own this blouse and dress much longer than H&M’s $5 piece of fabric.
Thrifting is a great alternative with cheaper options.
Thrifting helps the environment by recycling fabric instead of throwing your clothes into the landfill. I always find cool vintage-looking pieces and leave without spending over $20. If you know your wardrobe needs constant revamping, go to your local Goodwill or Savers and you’ll find unique pieces that no one else will have! Don’t believe me?
Here are some of my most valued steals from thrift stores.
I strongly urge you to watch the True Cost or check out some of these websites below. I am not perfect in relation to this topic either. I still own pieces from these retailers and understand the appeal in cheap clothing as a student. But, I do thrift whenever I’m looking for trendy, transitional pieces instead of going to H&M, which I strongly advise. If you care about our planet’s future, I hope you consider the impacts fashion has on where we live and on who makes it great.
I am passionate for fashion not for the superficial gimmicks such as shoes and make-up, but I know I’m able to make a sustainable change for international community by speaking our against such horrible labor conditions and the environmental damage derived from greedy fast-fashion retailers. I am on this planet to make a global impact and fashion is the best route for me to take in order to foster a better society.