"Fast Fashion" is a term used for brands that turn over new products rapidly, keeping up with the fast rate at which new trends come in and out of style. You probably shop at these stores a lot; popular franchises such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, ASOS, Topshop, and Fashion Nova are involved in "fast fashion." The clothing in these stores tends to be on the lower end of the scale when it comes to both prices and quality. But you get what you pay for. Right? Except there are far greater consequences when you buy from these brands then just poor craftsmanship.
The effect that these clothing stores have on the environment is absolutely atrocious to say the very least. The fashion industry is the second leading polluter of water, with 20% of industrial water pollution coming from treating and dying textiles. Not only do these items pollute the oceans while they are being made, many also contain synthetic microfibers that pollute any water they are washed in. On top of that, it takes a large number of resources to make these clothes. For example, it takes 2700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That's how much a human drinks in two and a half years!
People aren't buying good quality items meant to last anymore; they're buying cheap items that can go through the wash approximately three times before they need to be thrown out. People are seeing people on TV, Instagram models, and other influencers sporting new trends and then going out to buy the pieces themselves, only to throw them away in a couple of months. And then where do these items go? Straight into the landfills. This year, the average American will throw away around 81 pounds of clothing, and that's not even counting the fact that it's mostly younger people shopping at these "trendy" stores. To make matters even worse, to save money on production these items are often made of synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic. The problem? These are non-biodegradable fabrics meaning that when they go into these landfills they can take as long as 200 years to actually degrade. So, not only do we have a great influx of products that are being trashed, their impact stays for a longer amount of time.
The environmental impact isn't the only problem with these companies. There are also huge ethical problems that come into play, mainly on the way that workers are treated. Most consumers don't stop to think where and how a clothing item was made and how they made it for such a low price. They're too focused on the number on the tag and how it is a "steal." But what that consumer is really stealing is a fair wage to workers in the developing world who are struggling to earn 10 cents an hour. They're really stealing the childhoods of children in these countries who are sent to sweatshops barely after learning to walk. One of the main ways that these companies are able to make these prices so low is by producing their products where they don't have to ensure that there is a safe way to escape a building if there is a fire, or that their workers are able to feed their families, or that even that their workers aren't small children themselves.
So while that number on the price tag may look tempting, keep in mind the impact that you are putting on the world through what you choose to purchase.