Beyond Price Tag

Real Cost of Fast Fashion

Beyond Price Tag

As you dive into your closet each morning in order to decide on the perfect outfit, thoughts of ethics and the environment probably don’t cross your mind. However, if most of your pieces were purchased from the mall, you are contributing to a huge problem that is called Fast Fashion.

Fast Fashion is defined by Google as “Inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends”. It’s the styles and designs you see on Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and other socialites that stores like Forever 21 quickly emulate to become affordable to the general, middle-class public. Specifically, it’s stores such as Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Charlotte Russe, Rue 21, and many more. Even many online brands such as She-in and Fashion Nova are found especially guilty. It’s all cheap, it’s all trendy, everyone is paying into it, and it’s a problem.

Gap and H&M are among the richest of fashion brands with net worth amounting to over 15 and 18 billion each. But in order to keep up with the trends, our favorite, and most rich, brands are employing people in third world countries to produce the textiles and make our clothing. These employees (also called “garment workers”) are underpaid and overworked, in factories where building codes are ignored and overcrowding occurs – workers rights are limited and sometimes nonexistent. These factories, informally known as “sweatshops”, are often found in, but not limited to, China, India, Bangladesh, and other parts of Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean which are home to people living in poverty and misery with citizens who have little to no choice on where to work are willing to have a job with any salary, in any working condition. Salaries differ from company to company but most employees earn just a few dollars a day, which is not enough to support themselves, let alone their entire family – they go hungry, homeless, and even die from illness caused by poor working conditions.

Worst of all, many of these workers are children, it is estimated that 170 million children are involved with working in these sweatshops, that is 11% of all the children in the world. Children are recruited from rural areas in their home country, promised fair wages, regular meals, and an education – all of which are not actually made available. Despite these companies being worth billions, they do not supply any basic human needs for their workers.

In addition to this already disturbing enough reality, Fast Fashion is also creating an environmental crisis. 28 billion pounds of clothing are put into the landfill each year in just the United States alone. Oftentimes, these clothes never left the store and were thrown out by the retailers in order for their brand to stay exclusive and valuable as opposed to being donated or sold for a discounted price. Despite the fact that many of these clothes being made with natural fibers such as cotton, linen, rayon, tencel, and modal, they do not decompose because they are bleached, dyed, etc. Therefore, these clothes ultimately end up producing toxins, such as methane, polluting the air we breath and contributing to Global Warming. Clothes made from synthetic material, like acrylic, polyester, and nylon take hundreds, if not a thousand, to completely biodegrade.

The question on what Fast Fashion is, quickly turns into what can be done to end it for good. Sadly, there is no clear answer on how to end the unfair suffering of workers in developing nations around the world and the damage it is causing to our environment. However, there are plenty of ways one can personally avoid getting everything from these dangerous stores, for starters, find sustainable and ethical shops you actually like. If you like bohemian-esque stores, such as Free People, is a good alternative. If you’re into the trendy, yet polished and mature style of H&M, you might like the clothes and accessories on . If you’re into the work out scene, try for activewear instead of Nike or Under Armour. These options are just among the hundreds of stores that are sustainable and ethical. A quick Google search on “sustainable clothing”, can give you insight on the array of styles, prices, and types of clothing you can buy ethically, and if you are curious on just how ethical one of your favorite brands may be – just use “Good On You” app. The app rates over 2000 clothing brands on the company’s ethics and environmental impact.

There needs to be a big change in the fashion industry, and for now, the best way it can be assembled is at a personal level. If enough action is taken by individuals, it can send a message to the corporations, and advancements that have people and the environment in mind can be made. It can’t all happen in one day, but an attempt at shopping sustain-ably and informing your friends is a clear step in the right direction.