Lindsay Gross, Opinions Co-Editor
Have you ever felt the urge to wear a different outfit than the one you wore last week? Have you bought a piece of clothing over another because it was lower in price, or bought a new piece because it was “trending”? If yes, you may be a culprit of fast fashion, also known as mass production of clothing at a very low cost. Fast fashion brands produce inexpensive and trending clothes, conditioning their consumers to buy and buy again. Fast fashion is advertised in our everyday lives, and can be beneficial as it allows people to quickly obtain cheap clothing. However, this industry has its downsides too.
According to a report by Coresight Research, online manufactures such as Missguided, Boohoo and Fashion Nova produce around 900 styles weekly. The mass and constant production of clothes creates a cycle reinforcing people to buy new clothes and repeatedly fit into new styles. Tyler Goodmore, ‘21, said, “[Fast fashion] tricks customers by promoting unrealistic lifestyles and unattainable beauty standards.” The cheap and swift turnover of new fashion styles pushes people to ditch the more environmentally friendly, maybe more expensive, alternative. However, buying a $30 t-shirt compared to a $5 t-shirt could mean the difference of not contributing to pollution, low wages and unsafe working conditions that prevail in the fast fashion industry.
Because commodities made through fast fashion are produced at excessive rates, a vast amount of clothing gets discarded into landfills. According to Business Insider, “85% of all textiles go to the dump each year… and the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.” This contributes to textile waste, carbon emissions and water pollution, according to Treehugger.
Fast product turnover means companies need a workforce that can keep up with the pace of new trends. Fast fashion is commonly produced in sweatshops, where laborers work long hours in unsafe working conditions for low wages. Many brands also employ children as a way to produce clothes at a cheaper and more efficient rate. The Guardian stated, “Employers get away with [child labor] because the fashion supply chain is hugely complex… [making] it possible to employ children without big brands and consumers ever finding out.”
A popular and sustainable alternative to fast fashion is thrifting; shopping through second-hand clothing. Andrew Kaefer, ‘21, believes everyone should thrift-shop. “Some people make an argument that it takes clothing away from people who may not have the same access as others. However, I know from first hand experience that literal tons of clothing are sitting in the back of most thrift stores. More than 50% of items in thrift stores don’t sell,” Kaefer said. Kaefer took his love for thrifting and created his own business re-selling second-hand clothing that he self-picks. “My business, Kaefer’s Kloset, is extremely sustainable. Since starting in 2018, I’ve given over 5,000 pieces of clothing a new home, instead of finding its way to a landfill.”
Thrift shopping is not only an eco-friendly way to purchase clothes, but it is also a fun activity.
Thrift shopping is a step in the right direction for sustainable shopping, but there are additional alternatives to fast fashion. Rather than discarding clothes, one can repair or donate their used clothes. Additionally, washing your clothes less frequently can lower your carbon footprint. According to a study by The Guardian, over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers are released into the environment in just one washing machine cycle. These micro fibers can poison or kill aquatic animals by a build up in their digestive tracts.
In an age where new trends are constantly being presented through social media and in the fashion industry, it is important to be mindful of how and where you purchase items. Out of all carbon emissions, the fast fashion industry is responsible for 10%. One less washing machine cycle and an excursion to the thrift store is enough to make an impact.
Designed by: Jared Garelick