By: Stefanie Baptista
Campus Life Editor
“Fast fashion.” It’s a term thrown around a lot on social media nowadays. You can find a collection of passionately worded arguments that condemn shopping at stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Primark, and many more with a simple search on Twitter. However, people seem to be leaving out two key parts in their arguably aimed to shame monologues… What exactly is fast fashion? And, why is it so bad?
Those are the questions I set out to answer. Personally, I wasn’t totally sure what the term meant before I actually started looking for the definition. I would read it in a tweet and just kind of shrug it off without really giving it much thought. I feel like that’s a common reaction people have to things these days that are actually real issues they don’t want to be bothered with; so I decided that wasn’t for me. I wanted to educate myself on the topic and share what I learned with others who may feel the same way.
According to Investopedia, “fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends.” Also, “fast fashion allows mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at an affordable price.”
I think it’s also important to note that, before the age of fast fashion, stores would only release new clothing collections and styles seasonally; so, four times a year. The Good Trade sums it up by saying, “to understand and define the phrase, it’s important to first give the phenomenon context. The fashion industry, up until the mid-twentieth century, ran on four seasons a year: fall, winter, spring, and summer. Designers would work many months ahead to plan for each season and predict what they believed customers would want. This method, although more methodical than fashion today, took away agency from the wearers. Before fashion became accessible to the masses, it was prescribed to high society and there were rules to be followed.” Take a minute to think about that in comparison to now. These days, you can go into a store like H&M, see what they have to offer, and then go back a week later to a completely new collection, or, collections. The designing and creating processes seem to happen in a New York minute.
Now, think about all of the materials and fabric used. Then, think about those same materials and fabric ending up in the trash, because they aren’t of lasting quality. How many times have you bought something from, let’s say, Primark, and have it rip on you before you even remove the tag from it? Depending on how bad the tear is, do you just throw it out or try to sew it? Well, if you’ve never thrown out a piece of clothing, you can honestly say that you are partly responsible for the mere 15% of textiles that don’t end up in the ground. Yes, “about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated.” They will never decompose because of the synthetics they’re made with. You may only wear that dress once, but it will be on this earth even after your time.
Not only do these types of clothes have an environmental effect, but they also have a human health effect. A Huffington Post article writes that, “according to the Center for Environmental Health, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever 21 and other popular fast-fashion chains are still selling lead-contaminated purses, belts and shoes above the legal amount, years after signing a settlement agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products.” Up until now, companies were getting away with this, but not anymore. Remember Forever 21’s bankruptcy claim this past September? It was due, in part, to their lack of care and action toward sustainability. Today’s youth are all about environmental preservation, and nobody is being let off the hook, or hanger. It looks like Forever 21 is finally aging.
This led me to ask myself, “how do we combat this increasing issue when the majority of stores fall under this umbrella?” Well, the answer is rather simple, but the execution may be quite difficult depending on your surroundings. Here are three ways (there are obviously more!) you can fight fast fashion:
- Shop at thrift stores. Think about it: A thrift store, in essence, is a clothing recycling bin. If you are continuously donating to and buying from thrift stores, no waste is being created. Keep the cycle of recycling going!
- Buy less. We are currently living in the era of the consumer. We are marketed things we are told that we need, but we actually don’t. Take that into consideration the next time you’re in the market for a new wardrobe. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this sweater,” then make an educated decision.
- Buy better quality. I know, better quality usually means more money, which is tough. But! If you can invest a little extra in something that you know will serve its purpose for many years to come, try to spend the extra buck. You will thank yourself when you go to take the tag off and it doesn’t rip your clothing in the process.
You know that we are living in a material world, but you don’t have to be a (fast fashion) material girl (or boy).