What is Fast Fashion?
By Aleen R.
Our generation is one of the most socially and environmentally conscious individuals to take the stage as leaders and activists. Teenagers like Greta Thunberg are the face of movements for sustainability regarding our Earth and how it’s being used and treated. Despite this, our generation is also one of the major contributors to a harmful industry that is connected to the climate crisis and unethical labor practices. The culprit behind the pollution of our oceans and alarming excess in landfills isn’t what we use to enjoy the latest Starbucks drink or fuel our trip to the next popular concert: it’s in our closet.
Fast Fashion is exactly how it sounds. Trends and fads come in and out within nights. What’s cool today isn’t tomorrow. The fashion industry has responded with stores that can cheaply and quickly produce the most recent styles on a weekly basis, leading to a need for an even faster system of mass production and an ever cheaper deal. While this increases competition between brands and can benefit the consumer by offering a wider variety of products, it’s also led to labor abuses and a negative environmental impact. For example, some of the chemicals used to dye our clothing are actually incredibly toxic and carcinogenic, as well as a major source of water pollution and birth defects. Textile waste, including the shedding of microfibers from polyester, is increasing the amount of plastic in our oceans and affecting the aquatic life. Greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 is being released into the air at an alarming rate. The use of sweatshops, child labor, and other inhumane practices are specifically devastating the third-world countries which are targeted for outsourcing as there are typically less laws in place to protect individuals from being exploited and enslaved.
Some of the main players in Fast Fashion are brands which intentionally target younger people, and can often be found in every mall and many teenager’s closets. These stores include Forever 21, H&M, TopShop, and Zara, but also popular online retailers like the highly advertised Fashion Nova or affordable Romwe and Shein. However, if you’re an environmentally conscious person who is looking to contribute to a greener future, you might invest in Slow Fashion brands like Alternative Apparel, Reformation, Patagonia, PACT and Everlane. These brands encourage you to buy better and buy less. Instead of purchasing an array of poorly made tops that might only last a few washes before beginning to fade or fall apart, they suggest investing in one high-quality, ethically made top, which you’ll use for a longer time. Another way to decrease textile waste is to recycle and donate your old or unwanted clothing. You might also consider purchasing an energy efficient washing machine and avoid dry cleaning. There are plenty of ways to make small changes which will have a big impact.
The youth have always been at the front-lines when it comes to calls for social change, but our generation is making history in our contribution to the fight against the environmental crisis. While some can attend protests and sit-ins against the harm of our planet, we can all make the choice to educate ourselves on the impact that our fashion has on the oceans, air, and land. Better yet, we can be more conscious when it comes to who we purchase our clothing from and how it was produced. You can do your part by considering ethical, sustainable clothing and getting your friends and family to do the same.