Fast Fashion Has A Bad Reputation
Fast fashion... you’ve heard it before. Maybe on the news, or maybe you’ve heard someone talk about it on social media. The words “fast fashion” might make you think of a specific retailer, or it could be that thing in the back of your mind that you try to ignore as you hit “checkout” on a pair of shoes that you’re not sure if you’ll wear again, but you know you NEED them for this weekend (& the price is too hard to resist!).
Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends”. It provides everyday consumers with cheaply priced, stylish clothing that was once seen on a celebrity, influencer, or high-end designer’s line. Fast-fashion retailers release 100’s to 1,000’s of new styles weekly (and sometimes daily, according to Shein) in order to keep up with the latest trends, and keep customers coming back for more.
To a lot of people, that sounds amazing. Almost... too good to be true.
Fast fashion comes at a greater cost than most people think. After you get excited about how cheap something is priced, it is important to question why it is that price to begin with.
So why does fast-fashion have to be bad?
Exploits People – Unfortunately, fast-fashion’s exploitation of workers is very real and is still happening today (There is evidence + tragic events that support this). In order to hit low prices, companies often outsource or subcontract their production to developing countries. This results in little to no transparency in labor practices (working conditions, child labor, payment of living wages). Retailers and manufacturers have created a cut throat mentality in order to meet the demand of fast fashion— shortened design & production times, quantity over quality, producing more but demanding sharper costs and shorter lead times. All of these things eventually come down on the workers (who are often women) and how they are treated.
Costs Our Planet – Fast-fashion clothes are made and priced cheap for a reason… and they are NOT meant to last. Quick trends and only buying something to wear it once feeds into a “throw away” culture, making it a huge contributor to pollution and waste. Clothing is made from 60% synthetics which means it cannot be recycled and it won’t biodegrade. Your $5 tee shirt that you bought from H&M in 2009 is still sitting in landfill, and will be for years to come. Not to mention, there are chemicals and toxic-dyes used in the making of these garments which are polluting and contaminating waterways.
Your Mental Health – Fast-fashion encourages constant consumption. And constant consumption will always make you feel left wanting more, while also triggering feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame, and insecurities. There is this idea that fashion is always evolving and that we must “keep up with the trends” in order to gain self-worth. The truth is that no matter how sharp-eyed of a shopper you are, you will never be able to keep up with the hundreds and thousands of styles that are being released online each day. When we take a step back and mindfully shop instead of emotionally shop, we are able to make buying decisions that leave us feeling a sense of reward and empowerment.
While it is easy to point fingers at fast-fashion retailers, the truth is that it is up to us (the consumers) to make a difference.
After all, we are the ones who open our wallets and decide who we give our hard-earned dollar to. As consumers continue to contribute to the demand of cheap clothing, companies will continue to make it.