Fast fashion is something that we, as a society, have started to grow more and more accustomed to. Mass produced clothing using less than ethical means of production has started to become part of our everyday routine, so it’s no wonder that fast fashion business is booming so much. There’s also an economical reason for why fast fashion sells so much as well.
We’re starting to see the rise of fast fashion sites that steal pictures from each other, then produce the clothes and sell them all for a cheaper price. We’ve got sites like Shein, Romwe, ASOS, Pretty Little Thing, and many, many more fast fashion sites that have been gaining publicity via YouTubers doing Fashion Hauls, and rating their clothing.
The good thing is that as fast fashion gains more and more attention, all the other bad things about it gain attention alongside it.
You may be asking yourself at this moment: what’s so bad about fast fashion? Well, let’s get into it.
Human Life Cost
Fast fashion is a bad practice for a multitude of reasons, one of them being terrible production conditions in factories. Workers work to the bone for little money and have very few rights. According to the DW.com‘s article, “The hidden human cost of fast fashion,” working in the textile industry is especially bad for women in places like India and Bangladesh, where there’s rampant discrimination, and sexual harassment.
The article also touches on why women are especially targeted during these jobs, and why they stay. It’s mainly because women there are seen as “docile” according to the article, and most likely will not do anything to stand up for themselves. Poverty also contributes to the women staying for long periods of time, even though they may not like the circumstances.
The textile industry does not pay well for these women. However, there’s much more danger from men in any other industry, so textiles is a bit “safer” than anything like stone-cutting or being a maid, the article writes.
This phenomenon isn’t just happening in India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. In December of 2019, FashionNova came under fire for running sweatshops on American soil. FashionNova is another fast fashion website will really cheap clothing; it’s very reminiscent of places like ASOS, Shein, and many others.
According to Forbes’ article, “The Not-So-Hidden Ethical Cost Of Fast Fashion: Sneaky Sweatshops In Our Own Backyard”, FashionNova ran sweatshops in Los Angeles, and in fact, Los Angeles is a hotbed for American sweatshops. The majority of people who work in these fast fashion sweatshops are undocumented immigrants with almost no other options for jobs in America.
However, many people were either completely oblivious to this fact, or simply do not care.
This interesting reaction to sweatshops on American soil is no surprise. America, and more specifically, American people, seem to not really care about anything that does not happen to them. That, or something as horrid as sweatshops only happens in other countries, and not in America or it’s just worlds away!
The Forbes’ article actually kind of mentions this kind of reaction by listing assumptions that arise after this news:
- The workforce must be ethical, AKA. Made with fair labor wages
- It supports American businesses
- Even if its cheap as heck, it’s not shady because of some unknown reason or loophole
Now that we’ve discussed the human cost, what’s there to say about the environmental cost?
It’s a well known fact that fast fashion isn’t ethical, both humanly or environmentally. Fast fashion is not made to last, and because it doesn’t last, it’ll usually end up in the trash sooner than your normal Walmart t-shirt.
But just because it doesn’t last a long time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t degrade just as fast.
Fast fashion puts a strain on the environment in a number of ways, one of the ways listed above. According to New York Times’ article, “How Fast Fashion is Destroying the Planet,” Fast fashion does not decay fast because most of clothes nowadays use synthetic fibers that, guess what? Don’t decay!
So when you throw away a shirt from any of these fast fashion sites, there’s a possibility that it won’t decay in the landfill it lands in.
Let’s pull in some facts, shall we? This comes from ideasforus.org, “Is Fashion Killing the Planet and It’s People,” where they give some really helpful statistics to put everything in perspective.
CO2 is something that the planet needs to live; we’re not disputing this fact. However, recently more CO2 than the Earth can handle is being put out into the atmosphere; the fast fashion industry is the 2nd biggest polluter, besides the oil industry.
Fast fashion is a big producer of CO2, spewing out 1.2 billion tons of the stuff annually. It’s also responsible for pumping out 20% of world’s wastewater. Fast fashion also produces a ton of surplus clothing; so much so that 60% of clothing that’s produced in a year gets trashed.
Because of that surplus, clothes that aren’t sold also get burnt in incinerators at the end of the season. Burberry does this, Chanel does this, Louis Vuitton does this, a lot of luxury brands do this to their own stock. Why?
According to newsweek.com, Burberry, along with many other high-end fashion brands and clothing manufacturers, burned $37.8 million in “unwanted products” in 2017. This practice is meant to keep the exclusivity of the products, keeping the costs high, and not allowing anyone who isn’t able to afford it, to buy it.
You know how high-end makeup brands — some include KVD Beauty, and Anastasia Beverly Hills — sometimes ends up Marshall’s, or TJ Maxx? Yeah, luxury brands do not want that happening to their products.
As you would imagine, this then causes a ton of environmental concern, considering that the smoke from burning all those synthetic fibers and products end up in the atmosphere. This creates smog, and over time, this build-up will end up impacting the world as we know it.
The solution? Try to support ethically sourced, and sustainable products from sustainable and transparent brands. Some of these brands include:
- Mara Hoffman
- United by Blue
- Alternative Apparel
- Amour Vert
- Whimsy + Row
And many different other sustainable and eco-friendly brands. However, we know that it’s not as easy as starting to support ethical brands. This leads into this next point…
Fast Fashion’s Place in the World
Fast fashion is cheap.
Fast fashion ships relatively fast, and most importantly, it’s cheap.
Fast fashion is also mass produced, and not made to be fitted, which doesn’t cost as much. And it’s cheap.
Did we mention it’s cheap?
This point is important because this is the main factor in why fast fashion is so popular, and is booming right now. We live in a world with millions of people, and you can’t exactly fit and style millions of people and not expect the prices to hike up. That’s just not realistic.
This makes fast fashion extremely accessible to poor and impoverished families who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on something sustainable and environmentally friendly. This is why big conglomerates like Walmart, and Target, and fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21, Hot Topic, FashionNova, and many other fast fashion brands thrive.
Fast fashion also thrives in a time where online shopping becomes more and more quick and easy. This adds to its accessibility. Brands like the ones mentioned above are some of the most accessible clothing brands that people who aren’t either middle class or stinking rich can afford. Impoverished people literally cannot afford to care about the environment without harming themselves financially. Some most likely do care, but it’s their own survival over the bigger picture.
Why are you going to worry about where your clothing comes from when you need to figure out if you’re going to pay rent or eat?
What’s the End Point?
We don’t think we need to continue to harp the point that fast fashion is a bad practice, and big companies should strive to become better by offering more sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Furthermore, there needs to be more eyes on terrible conditions in factories and sweatshops.
And most importantly, there needs to be more conversation on why fast fashion thrives so much in our society. There needs to be more conversation about the economical part of fast fashion, the part that includes poor people that buy into fast fashion and continue to fund it.
Hopefully, this article sheds a bit more light on fast fashion. If you want to check out any of the sources in here, be sure to scroll further down to look at all the sources used. Happy shopping!
What do you think about fast fashion? What are your opinions? We’d love to know!
Featured Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/M1n5CWH2xKI
Hi! My name is Carolina Cisneros, and I am a new intern at Society 19. I’m so glad to have this opportunity! I have an Associates in Studio Art, and I will be heading into university for Cinematic Arts and Technologies. I plan to go into the animation industry, designing characters and bringing more diversity into the world. For now, I’m building my skills. Thank you for reading!