By: Muriel Baki
In a world of online shopping, malls reopening, Labor Day sales and retail therapy, it is easier than ever to have all the latest trends on hand as quickly as someone can post an Instagram photo. The problem, however, is that disposable fashion is harming our planet and wasting our resources, as well as stimulating an industry earmarked by mistreatment, poor working conditions and minimum wages of those who make all the latest looks. Brands such as Fashion Nova, Forever 21, GAP, Urban Outfitters and countless more create products known as ‘fast fashion.’
According to Webster’s Dictionary, “fast fashion is a term to describe the speed at which fashion designs move from design concept to fashion product available for purchase. It is characterized by high volume, low margin, fast-paced, cheap and disposable items.” Fast fashion produces such a large volume of inexpensive clothing, that a person no longer needs to spend a lot of money to possess an extensive closet. Junior art and entertainment industry management major Sara Burke says, “I try my best to always thrift to the best of my ability but it’s always really difficult as a broke college student to not use fast fashion for stuff. It’s awful to have to resort to it sometimes.”
Unfortunately, the fast fashion industry is one of the top contributors to our growing climate crisis. According to Business Insider, fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. Textile production is a very wasteful and inefficient process, making one kilogram of fabric generate an average of 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases. In an age of instant gratification and social media, the constantly changing trends keep production demands for inexpensive, and often low-quality textiles, high. It takes about 2,720 liters of water to produce just one cotton shirt — a number equivalent to what an average person drinks over three years, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation.
Fast Fashion is not only terrible for our environment, the entire industry is associated with the mistreatment of low-wage employees. Giants of the industry such as Victoria’s Secret and GUESS have been accused of child labor and SOS messages from garment workers were reported to be found sewn into labels of the British clothing brand Primark, according to an article by BBC News.
The fast fashion industry is harmful to humanity. The need to wear the latest trends is costing us our planet, as well as the health and safety of garment workers around the world being taken advantage of with long hours, poor working conditions and measly wages.
The good news, however, is that you as a consumer have the power to tell this industry that they must change their practices, simply by choosing where you spend your money. With more than 150 billion articles of clothing produced per year, there is more clothing currently in existence than ever before, and you can buy a lot of it secondhand. Since the market crash of 2008, the popularity of thrifting, or shopping secondhand, has increased in commonality and normality. Not only is it no longer considered weird to shop for secondhand fashion but it’s become a major source of clout. Thrifted items are considered to be a cool closet staple in the modern world. Sophomore musical theater major Kaedon Knight (frequently seen in one-of-a-kind thrifted outfits) says, “I like thrifting because I can explore options that give clothing more than one life, as well as it being fashionable and fun to find unique clothes.” It is also becoming easier than ever to buy second-hand clothes. In addition to independent thrift stores and chains like Goodwill, online thrift stores such as The Real Real, Poshmark and thredUP have emerged to resell and buy used clothing online. For more information about the way these companies are treating both their employees and the planet, tune in to October’s Green Film, “The True Cost”, a virtual screening on Oct. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m., you can register for the Zoom link on Bronc Nation.
This fall as you shop the latest trends, consider not only the planet but your fellow humans as well. Remember that your wallet is influential, and when you support a business, it is important to recognize what systems and practices you are supporting. We all have the power to start making small changes that could lead to a huge impact.