In an age of constantly cycling microtrends and online shopping, the fast fashion industry has exploded in popularity where brands like H&M and Zara have a seemingly unbreakable chokehold on today’s youth. Bright colors, contemporary silhouettes, and most importantly, affordable prices, attract 72% of American college students (Forbes) and garner an estimated over $106 billion in profit (Statista). However, with the rise of sustainability awareness, the deleterious impacts of fast fashion are becoming more apparent to the eyes of the world.
The fast fashion industry cuts multiple corners at the expense of the environment and human health to keep costs at a minimum. For example, companies use toxic dyes in fabrics that are detrimental to health to reduce the cost of materials. Additionally, much of the clothing that fast fashion companies produce requires significant amounts of water and oil, which depletes resources and pollutes the environment. Furthermore, the fast fashion industry employs sweatshops to decrease costs by severely underpaying workers and putting them in dangerous work environments. While the newest clothing trends and exceedingly affordable prices in fast fashion stores are convenient, that convenience comes from environmental damage and exploitative factory practices.
So, what can individuals do to curb the fast fashion industry? The main issue with fast fashion is the notion that clothing is disposable. It’s this principle of expendability that drives corporations to exploitative practices to unsustainably and unethically manufacture garments. For starters, simply wearing clothes from your closet for longer prevents garments from ending up in landfills. Additionally, shopping at thrift stores keeps pre-existing clothes from going to waste while retracting support from fast fashion stores. These actions will not solve all the problems with fast fashion; however, changing your habits and perspective on clothing opens the door to long-term systemic change in the future.
Jennifer Lee, Weston DeMourdant, Aspen Mist Cobarrubias and Dennis Byrd, East High School