I was first introduced to the concept of fast fashion three years ago, by a documentary on Netflix entitled "The True Cost," by Andrew Morgan.
Watching it was like riding a rollercoaster of emotions - the fashion brands I loved and shopped at frequently like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo were selling clothing for ridiculously cheap prices, but at the expense of both our environment and the people working in their factories.
How many articles of clothing in my closet were made by children? What havoc has a single one of my shirts wreaked on our environment in its creation? How much waste am I creating by shopping at these places?
The popularity of these brands are a product of the new demand for constantly new, trendy pieces. With the rise of social media, people are expecting new information every second, and trends are changing weekly. The fashion industry has caught onto this, circling through new styles continuously.
Clothing used to be an investment, but today it's a cheap, disposable decoration.
The fabric used to make these products is typically polyester, a mixture of ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid - also known as plastic. If you look in your own closet, many of the items will be made (or mostly made) of this material unless you buy from very high quality brands and frequently check the materials your clothing is made of.
When washed, the microplastics in this fabric falls off and is carried out to sewage treatment plants where there are often not filters fine enough to collect the tiny pieces. These pieces are becoming an increasing threat to both marine life and ourselves as many fish and sea creatures are ingesting them and in turn we are ingesting the fish. Therefore, we are ingesting those plastics.
In addition to the environmental problems these clothes contribute to, the people working for these large companies are typically sparingly paid and working in extremely unsafe conditions. H&M is the second largest retailer in the world, however the garment workers aren't even being paid living wages. In 2013 one of their factories in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,138 of their employees - a completely avoidable consequence of not abiding by standard fire and building code regulations. Many of their factories, six years later, are still in the process of meeting these standards and have yet to reach them.
As consumers it is our job to demand change. Boycott buying from these retailers, and if you cannot because good clothing is expensive, then buy less of this clothing. All these brands care about is making money, and if we deny them that luxury, they will be forced to change their practices.
If you are at all interested in learning more about your clothing and the greater effects it could be having on the world, here are some resources which have taught me a great deal about the modern fashion industry: