Fast fashion is a term applied to companies like Forever 21, Zara and H&M, clothing stores that provide cheap clothing and switch out their merchandise at high rates to keep up with current trends. However, this model of filling closets is damaging to the environment, unethical and unnecessary.
Fast fashion companies are huge. Currently the two biggest clothing retailers in the world are Zara’s parent company and H&M. This clothing is the opposite of durable, and isn’t great for the environment. Simon Collins, the dean of fashion at the design school Parsons, said in an interview with NPR:
“You see some products and it’s just garbage. It’s just crap, and you sort of fold it up and you think, yeah, you’re going to wear it Saturday night to your party — and then it’s literally going to fall apart.”
If shoppers spend their entire clothing budget on fast fashion that will disintegrate in the washing machine, they’re wasting quite a bit of material. The EPA Office of Solid Waste says the average American throws out 68 pounds of clothing and fabric a year.
Add on top of this the ethical considerations of fast fashion. Most of this clothing is made in developing and third world countries by workers who make very little. In 2013 an eight-story garment factory collapsed, killing 1,000 people and injuring many more. These workers had been making products for companies including H&M. Adding all these issues on top of each other, fast fashion is not looking in good shape. So what are the other options?
First off, it’s a good idea to occasionally invest in well-made clothing. Buy things that are going to last, and that won’t be thrown away in a month. In order to do this, you’ll spend less time at the mall, but you could save money. A $40 sweater you wear for years is fundamentally cheaper than a $15 sweater you wear for a month. Having this money to put up front is definitely a privilege that many don’t have, but if you can it could be a more cost effective option.
Secondly, buy more used clothing. When a new item is purchased, it gets added adding to all of that clothing that’s just going to end up thrown away, but when people buy something used, they’re not adding to that at all. An easy way for people to do this is to just visit a local thrift store or consignment shop. Through the wonder of the Internet and the U.S. postal service, Americans can get used clothing delivered to their front door through websites like thredUP, an online curated thrift store, or an app like Vinted, where users can sell and buy clothing on a virtual marketplace.
This isn’t meant to condemn anyone, but to merely recommend another way of thinking about clothing. While the racks and racks of glittery, brand new, cheap clothing is a wonderful sight to behold, fast fashion is bad for the environment and its bad for people.
Luckily, there are other options. Purchasing clothing that will last the long haul and buying used can help offset the huge amount of waste that fast fashion generates.