Whenever I get a new email from Forever 21 boasting 80% off all sale, I can’t help myself but to just look at what they have. The trendy clothes paired with the prices usually starting around $3 combine to make themselves a force unstoppable to my willpower and debit card balance…until now.
Fast fashion. It’s a newer term that I hadn’t heard until last year. Ultimately, companies like Forever 21, H&M and others that are constantly putting out new merchandise, are essentially taking any new trend that pops up online or on the catwalk, and streamlining it to customers.
A Quartz article recently revealed that brands like Zara, Adidas and Gap push out styles more frequently than ever. These new styles that are streamlined are also mass produced, which make them cheaper than ever.
Trendy styles for super cheap? What’s so wrong with that?
Well there are several reasons that make these cheap clothes less appealing. And that’s one of them–they’re cheap. To get those ridiculously low prices, the quality of the clothing and the cheap labor used in order to create the clothes are both exploited.
Let’s start with the most obvious flaw in clothing from known fast fashion producers: the clothing is obviously low quality.
I ordered a pair of athletic leggings from Forever 21 and got to wear them about seven times before the seams began to tear and the material began to warp. At under $15, it’s hard to be upset when they fall apart, but it is costing you more to buy several pairs of the cheap ones instead of buying a more expensive brand of leggings that could last you a year or more.
Same thing goes for jeans. A pair of jeans from Levi’s is practically guaranteed to last you a long time. A pair of jeans from Forever 21/H&M/etc. may last you a year, tops.
Not only does fast fashion become expensive for you, it becomes expensive for our planet.
If your clothing does not end up busting at the seams after a couple washes and wears, most of it still ends up in landfills.
Even if you donate your clothing, only 10% of donated clothes actually get resold.
In the United States alone, we send over ten trillion tons of clothing to landfills every year. Studies on these landfills have shown that the dyes and chemicals found in that super trendy rose embroidered top you bought on a whim begin to contaminate the local soil and groundwater as it sits there for 200 years slowly deteriorating.
In a short 12 years, the fashion industry’s CO2 levels are supposed to rise more than 60%, emitting a staggering 2.8 billion tons into the atmosphere.
Not to mention several countries are facing water shortages and will be forced to choose between clean water for their citizens and cotton productions in the coming years, as water consumption is estimated to rise 50% by 2030.
Exploited workers are another reason fast fashion is thriving
While cheap materials and producing these clothes in mass quantity help the prices stay low, one of the main factors in the low price is the low cost of labor in exploited workers around the world.
There are around 75 million laborers working a ridiculous amount of hours every day so that we can all have our $6 metallic bodysuit for the next music festival that catches our eye. However, 80% of these workers are women who are between the ages of 18 and 24. These women are the same age as you and I, however while we here in the states have laws to protect us and our wellbeing, they do not have the same basic luxury.
Without strict labor laws there are girls as young as 14 working an average of 14 hours a day in sweatshops. Most of these women make an average of less than $3 a day and deal with constant workplace harassment.
What can I do to make a change?
While one person cannot personally change this devastating fast fashion cycle, we can all make small changes in order to change the status quo.
For one, we can stop shopping at places that make a mass amount of cheap clothing that just feed into the fast fashion cycle. Thrift stores are a great alternative to large corporations. Not only can you save your part of the environment, but you can find unique pieces that thousands of others don’t have. You can still find the prices you’ve become accustomed to but these clothes will probably last longer!
Buying local can also make an impact in the fashion market. If large numbers of people began to avoid these stores that are hurting the Earth, they will be forced to either find more renewable ways to create their clothing or create less clothing in general as demand would be down.
So go forth fashionably, but mindfully.1
Also published on Medium.