Fast fashion: A threat to the environment and basic human rights

Courtesy of Unsplash | H&M, a pioneer of fast fashion, is now one of the industry’s largest polluters.


Sarah DuJordan | Staff Columnist

Fast fashion is one of those topics climbing its way to the forefront of ethical dilemmas Gen Z is attempting to solve. The issues with fast fashion are widely known, but highly ignored. The reason it is so ignored? We are constantly surrounded by it.

I may be biased when assuming everyone is familiar with what fast fashion is. Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.”

So yes, the majority of your favorite stores — if not all — participate in fast fashion.

This topic became a universal concern within the past decade with the rise in sustainability. Social media allowed for people to voice their beliefs about fast fashion and the harm that accompanies it.

While I agree fast fashion is terrible for the environment and the exploited workers, the prices are what some people rely on. Fast fashion is not ignored solely because it is so present in our lives; the prices compared to sustainable fashion are impossible to beat.

Cheap retailers such as Shein, Forever 21, H&M, Amazon and even more expensive brands like Urban Outfitters are just a few that produce fast fashion. These stores listed have a specific demographic and targeted audiences of teenagers and young adults. Marketing-wise this is smart, as teenagers and young adults can keep up with the latest trends without draining their bank account.

Fast fashion’s biggest negative impact is the environmental aspect. Many can agree that the quality of clothing they are getting from places like Forever 21 and Shein are nothing special, which ultimately leads to having to get rid of them. Another reason for this occurrence is the transition from four fashions seasons to now fifty-two, which results in these brands having to mass produce new clothing every single week. Ultimately, this leads to overproduction and increased waste.

Due to the amount of toxic chemicals, dyes and synthetic fabrics being used, these articles of clothing are impossible to break down. A majority of these old materials will sit in landfills for ages, releasing unwanted toxins into the air we breathe.

Also, the harmful effects that fast fashion factories have on their workers and the area where it is mass produced can’t be ignored.

There are many solutions that attempt to combat fast fashion. The movement has been so cleverly named “slow fashion.” Small businesses and large corporations like Target implement efforts for being sustainable. Supporting small businesses is something the U.S. needs now more than ever. This allows you to know exactly who and where your items are coming from.

We must further acknowledge that fast fashion can be the only affordable option for lower-income people and areas.

While some may consider that large corporations attempting to “stop” fast fashion is performative activism, I think it is a step in the right direction. There are plenty of ways to find stores within your budget that also promote slow fashion efforts.

Of course, no one is perfect. I will admit, I am still guilty of putting my money toward fast fashion brands (yes, I did just buy a pair of jeans last week from Old Navy). I still try my best to be conscious of where my clothing is coming from.

Thrift shopping is a low maintenance way to stop contributing to fast fashion. Thrifting consists of low prices, recycled clothing and contributing to a better environment. Personally, that sounds like the way to go, and it has proven to be the best option as a college student — and not just for clothing purposes.

We all hear the term sweatshop and picture children working for prolonged hours under terrible circumstances — which makes us uncomfortable to think we are condoning it — but that is the reality of it. Trends go in and out of style every new season. Next time you click “add to cart” think about where it may be coming from.