“Fast fashion” is used to describe clothing that is mass produced by retailers in an often rapid and cheap manner. It is appealing to many because of its inexpensive cost, convenience, and trendiness. The fast fashion industry has cultivated a successful algorithm to keep up with runway-inspired looks as soon as they hit the spotlight. Understandably, it is hard to avoid the appeal of supporting an industry that caters to every fashionista’s needs. The issues within the industry, however, far outweigh the appeal.
Issues in the Industry
The industry’s mission to push out large amounts of retail in a short amount of time contribute to significant negative impacts on the environment. Toxic chemicals used to produce dye and fabrics are major pollutants. Textile waste is also an issue; because the industry encourages fast turnovers in shoppers’ wardrobes, many people are purchasing new items and getting rid of old ones at rapid rates. There are many ethical issues within the industry. If you look at the tag on the back of the shirt you are wearing at this exact moment, odds are it wasn’t made domestically. The fast fashion industry is known for outsourcing and sending their companies abroad to cut costs. Not only does this deprive the domestic economy of many local jobs, it also fosters inhumane working conditions in foreign countries. Labor is cheaper, factory workers are not being paid fair wages, and work conditions are hazardous. Incidents, such as the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013 and the Zara workers protest in 2017, have brought to public attention how dangerous the fast fashion industry can be.
Three Ways to Limit Your Contribution to the Industry
Though fast fashion is a huge part of our current consumer culture, there are some simple measures you can take to limit your investment into the industry.
1. Shop Second-hand
Thrifting is an on-trend, ethical alternative to buying from fast fashion retailers. Thrifted clothing is affordable and a great way to experiment with your style. While some of the clothing pieces may have fast fashion fashion labels, buying from thrift stores and consignment shops help stop the cycle of continuous investments in unethical industries. The environment benefits too; it reduces waste and keeps clothing from crowding the landfills.
2. Shop Home Grown Brands
Many local clothing companies do not participate in outsourcing by making their products domestically. This not only nourishes the local economy, but eliminates the abuse of foreign factory workers.
3. Shop Ethical and Sustainable Brands
There are so many cool brands that practice ethical production. There are retailers that use recycled water bottles and other goods to make their clothing. Some brands practice zero waste and energy efficiency to reduce their carbon footprint. Others focus on fostering a positive and creative work environment for their employees.
Limiting contribution to fast fashion can be hard; these brands are often the most affordable and accessible. But if you take the time to research before you shop, you can easily cut back and spend your money ethically!
Nadia Pressley is a 20-year-old student at Mercer University. She is majoring in Journalism and Global Development Studies. Nadia enjoys photography, traveling, and live music. She hopes to work in digital media after graduation.