Fast Fashion - How its negatively affecting us and what we can do about it
Updated: Mar 5
Sooo when we say fast fashion, what does that mean? I think goodtrade.com has a great answer; “Fast fashion utilizes trend replication, rapid production, and low quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public.” Very well said. And guess what, we all support this idea of fast fashion. Americans buy five times more clothing than they did in the 80’s (GetPocket.com). So why has fast fashion become so popular? Why is it growing so fast!?
Lets take social media for example. Social influencers hardy ever wear the same piece of clothing in more than one photo. Some would say the concept of wearing a piece of clothing more than once could be considered “shameful” or gives the idea that they aren’t as fashionable or creative- what do you think? We are seeing our clothes as getting “old” faster due to this fast social culture. Social influencers want to keep things “fresh” for their followers by using a variety of fashion items. Fast fashion brands continuously send free clothing to these influencers. Usually the influencer will wear the item once for the brand photo, and then toss it. When random brands send influencers clothing to take photos, there is no emotional connection. As a result, I have seen insta famous influencers, do giveaways because they have too many clothes from sponsored brands.
Another reason for fast fashion is the quality of clothing. Fashion used to have 4 main seasons to work with. They would take the time to design and choose quality cloth that are long lasting. Now, most brands have 52 micro seasons a year… 52… This means the stores would have apprx. one new collection a week! (goodtrade.com). Because there is this idea of clothes being “out of date”, stores want to make sure their inventory never tires. And due to such rushed seasons and constant need to make clothes at a low price, the quality becomes less than desired. With such tight deadlines, there is a lack of quality control to make sure everything is added to a clothing item or it fits is appropriate to its designated size.
I have personally sent back so many full packages of clothes just because the quality was sh*t. Many of the pieces had little problems; the product did not fit right in certain areas, things were flappy. Even when Ive kept the items, I noticed that the quality did not last. Buttons fall off easily, color becomes more bland, and the clothing shrink a lot easier. At this point I have to ask myself, “Is it really worth it!?”. Sure, I am saving money in the short term but in the long run, I am actually buying more clothes. I personally try to wear my clothes until they are dead, but because of a lack of quality some items need to be recycled within a few wears.
So how is this really affecting our lives? Well, its affecting our environment in such a negative way! And, well… the earth is home. The average U.S. citizen throws away around 80 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, which adds up to 11 million tons in the United States alone. A big percentage of the thrown away clothes end up in landfills, which then start to decompose and emit a toxic brew of pollution ( getpocket.com). According to the New York Times, “More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), it will not decay.” Clothing sold on the cheap through fast fashion companies are putting even more chemicals and dangerous dyes into our clothing. This is leading to increased pollution which causes extreme weather changes, and negative effects on animals and of course, us.
There is of course one other issue related to fast fashion; that is the discussion of human rights. Though I am a big advocate for globalization, many of these fast fashion brands underpay their employees to be able to get fast and cheap clothing in large quantities. The factories create a dangerous work environment due to those quality checks and frequent exposure to chemicals.
So, what can we do about it? Ok, so an individual can’t actually save the world BUT if we all take small steps we can make a HUGE difference!! One thing we can do is integrate “slow fashion” into our lives. “Slow Fashion is a movement towards mindful manufacturing, fair labor rights, natural materials, and lasting garments” (getpocket.com). The first step towards slow fashion is to buy from ethically made brands. This can includes brands made locally and/or clothing made from recycled material.
Maybe you have something really great in your closet but it doesn't fit you - you can sell your items on platforms like, facebook marketplace, Poshmark, Depop, and Etsy. That way the clothes can be loved by another person and you can make some extra cash! Maybe those clothes are a little worn but could still use some love. You could sell them to places like Plato's Closet, Buffalo Exchange, or even send them to Thredup in exchange for a discount. You can always donate your clothing to a local church, goodwill or a thrift store! Unfortunately, due to fast fashion, the charity stores like goodwill have been overloaded with clothes. This has lead to stores sending the extra clothes to textile factories to get recycled or get sent to third world countries to be used. So, even though your clothes may not be going to someone local, they are going to someone.
Lets say you have holes in your clothes. I personally wouldn’t sell or donate these! However, there are companies that you can donate these clothes to, which then send them to get recycled!! You might even get a discount from these businesses; H&M, Madewell, Levi’s, Zara, North Face, and Reformation. There are so many great options that your gently used clothes should never see a garbage can again!
One of my favorite ways to go the slow fashion route is to buy vintage/used clothing! You can find so many gently or barely used clothing at these shops. For me, buying vintage is something meaningful, these pieces have been on their journey for decades and now it’s my turn to love them for what they are.
So next time you buy clothing, ask yourself, “will this bring me value”. Is the brand ethical? Do they take care of their employees and their fabric? Also, take a moment to think of the clothing’s afterlife. Will you be able to donate it or even recycle it? Many questions, but important questions that can slowly change our world!