Think about how many trendy pieces you bought when the trend was hot, and now these clothing items sit in your closet or have found their way into the trash. Brands such as Shein, H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 are known for selling trendy and affordable clothing, but few people know how their support of these stores contributes to fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to clothing that is quickly mass-produced to keep up with the latest trends at low costs. In my opinion, the fashion industry is responsible for environmental harm and the mistreatment of fashion industry laborers. Consumers should replace fast fashion with a more sustainable alternative.
According to the Australian company, Good On You, specializing in ethical and sustainable fashion, fast fashion contributes to water pollution due to the industry's use of toxic textile dyes. Good On You also explains how the industry's use of mass amounts of polyester contributes to global warming and the addition of microfibers released in the ocean from the wash cycle. Even the use of "natural" textiles in the fast fashion industry is harmful because of the high volume of pesticides and water used to treat the fabrics.
An article published by the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council called the issue of workers' rights in the fast fashion industry a "modern slavery problem." Fast fashion brands open factories in countries where they can exploit workers to keep production costs low while sacrificing the human rights of laborers who work in poor conditions.
On the other hand, sustainable brands are typically not cheap, and some brands like H&M are taking steps to reduce their footprint with an "environmentally conscious" line of clothing. In an article posted on Michigan State University's knowledge portal globalEDGE, Elise VanDyke mentions some benefits of fast fashion such as it produces more profit, consumer spending, and customer satisfaction, but this does not outweigh the consequences.
Don't get me wrong; I have Zara, Urban Outfitters, and other fast fashion-produced clothing in my closet. Still, I can make an active decision to no longer support these companies instead of restarting the cycle by throwing out cheaply made clothing for sustainable options. Instead, I can encourage you to start thrifting and to find out if your favorite brand pays their workers a living wage.
To learn more about the effects of fast fashion on industry laborers visit fashionchecker.org.