The problems of fast fashion


Savannah Ball

The wastefulness of fast fashion.

Kourtney Allee, Co-Head Editor

Fast fashion is a problem. It affects global warming, labor workers, animals, and the consumers. What is fast fashion, what are the specific issues and what can we do about it?
Before fast fashion, the fashion industry worked on styles and designs, predicted what consumers wanted, and sold the clothing during the four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. This business technique took away a sense of urgency for consumers. They knew when the pieces would be sold and the producers could more easily predict the amount of product to produce. The clothing was mainly for high society and was not accessible to all. In the late twentieth century, the fashion industry shifted greatly to make clothing easy to sell and accessible to all, which is now known as fast fashion.
Fast fashion is trendy, cheap clothing that is centered mainly around celebrity culture but also seasonal changes. Fast fashion, like the name tells, is produced quickly while certain styles are still “in.” The fashion industry feeds on the newest styles and produces clothing quickly and inexpensively. Fast fashion creates a cycle of buying and tossing because of how quickly styles go in and out. Not only that, because of how quickly the products are made, overproduction and consumption are very common.
Not only does fast fashion violate ethics but it also negatively harms the environment. Polyester pollution is one negative effect of fast fashion. According to Forbes, “microfibers from synthetic fabrics are released into our waterways — and, from there, into our rivers, lakes and oceans — every time they are washed in domestic washing machines.”
These microfibers negatively affect aquatic life and the environment. To support sustainable fashion, only purchase clothing that is from brands that are environmentally conscious and make their clothing out of more sustainable materials and fabrics.
Another negative effect of fast fashion is the amount of waste produced. Business Insider reports “in total, up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. That’s enough to fill the Sydney harbor annually.”
A lot of the waste according to BWSS is due to “the speed at which garments are produced” which results in more and more clothes disposed of by the consumers.
Not only that, approximately $500 billion dollars worth of clothing is disposed of and not recycled annually (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). To help reduce the amount of waste from clothing products, recycle textiles at local recycling facilities and try to buy clothing brands that try to reduce waste.
Fast fashion is also a contributor to child labor and numerous unsafe workplaces. In a US Department of Labor report, child labor and forced labor in the fashion industry were found in numerous countries across the globe. Not only that, but many companies pay minimum wage, which is not a sustainable living wage to its workers. The Cut states that H & M pays their factory workers an average of $0.49 per hour in Bangladesh. Factories are mediocre and a lot of times unsafe to work in. Ethics are put aside for many large brands to create the least amount of expenses. This results in many factories being sweatshops, where the worker’s health is at risk and their rights are violated. In an article by The New York Times, they stated: “slave labor in the American South supplied factories in both England, where they were notorious for child labor and other horrors, and the United States, where factory fires took the lives of recent immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.”
Lastly, a problem influenced by fast fashion is the global emissions released. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. The release of these emissions come from the transportation of the clothing, during consumer purchase, and when the consumer discards the product.
There are many fast fashion brands you should avoid to create a more sustainable future.
Zara is an example of a brand that is unethical and unsustainable. As “Good on You” states, “half of its final stage of production is undertaken in Spain, a medium risk country for labor abuse.”
Zara’s founder, Amancio Ortega, has a net worth of $70.6 billion (June 2020), and still allows Zara’s workers to be paid minimum wage which is not a living wage.
Another fast fashion brand is H & M. This company has been accused of greenwashing, “when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact.” (Business New Daily) H & M claimed that they would have bins where consumers could drop clothing that they would have disposed of. Taking this clothing, H & M stated they would turn the clothes into new garments. CBC stated that only 35% of what is collected from these bins is recycled. This is the company not wanting to be as environmentally friendly as their ad suggests. “Your old clothes into new garments,” is a marketing scheme to get more consumers because they are seen as “environmentally conscious.”
Fashion Nova also received backlash for their lack of concern for both the environment and the low wages they pay their workers. Good on You, states that Fashion Nova received a rating of “Very Poor” because the company does not publish their impacts and important details about their environmental policies.
Urban Outfitters, a fast-fashion brand that has had many controversies, is another company you should avoid. There is no evidence that Urban Outfitters supplies its workers with a “living wage” and the company got into a scandal in 2015 “where employees were asked to work for free over the weekend in the disguise of a ‘training day” (Good on You).
There are many ways to combat the negative effects of fast fashion. For example, according to Treehugger, “repair rips, broken zippers, and lost buttons instead of tossing damaged items.”
You can also donate and recycle clothing you no longer wear. You can do this by using the Council for Textile Recycling’s location finder. Instead of focusing on quantity and trendiness while shopping, focus on quality. Try shopping at secondhand stores such as Goodwill or Plato’s Closet and skip getting new clothes. If you are purchasing new clothes, buy from eco-fashion companies that are sustainable, respect their workers, and are environmentally conscious.