Living in one of the fashion capitals my entire life has ultimately led me to falling in love with clothes. I can express myself in any way I want. Fashion designer Orsola De Castro once said that clothes are "our chosen skin," and I couldn't agree more. Yet as an admirer of fashion I realized my style - while staying true to my aesthetic - has evolved to fit trends. In the fashion industry, trends come and go in the blink of an eye. But what I haven't realized is that while I keep up with the newest trends, I'm actually harming the environment and contributing to poor working conditions. This is what is known as fast fashion.
Fast fashion is a term used by fashion retailers which according to the dictionary is, "an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers." Retailers manufacture extremely large quantities of inexpensive fabric and sell the clothes at an affordable price to allow consumers to stay on trend. So when the trend has come and gone, the consumer wouldn't feel guilty about throwing away clothes.
Dangers of Fast Fashion
Giant retailers such as Zara, Forever 21, ASOS, Uniqlo and H&M are subjected to producing fast fashion. When new trends arrive, old garments are thrown away instantly to make room for new merchandise. These textiles and fabrics that are discarded essentially contributes to pollution. Not only that, but according to Elizabeth Cline, "the residents of New York City discard around 193,000 tons of clothing and textiles, which equates to 6% of all the city’s garbage." Along with the impacts on the environment, fast fashion has had a negative affect on the working conditions. In order to sell at low prices, these fast-fashion retailers are in need of cheap labor. For example, since H&M is "the largest producer of clothing in under-developed countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia (who are known for cheap labor)," they are not able to pay their workers with fair wages. Additionally, these working conditions are unsafe and workers are both mistreated and abused by factory owners.
Alternatives to Fast Fashion
Slow fashion. Believe it or not, it's actually a thing. Slow fashion is "the deliberate choice to buy better-quality items less often," and it's about "being purposeful and realizing that fewer is better.” Stores such Reformation, Everlane, Patagonia, and even your local thrift store all aim to save the environment. Retailers that advocate slow fashion know that their clothes are coming from artisans rather than workers subjected to poor working conditions. These brands that promote slow fashion value ethical production and sustainable materials. And while they may not be entirely affordable, they'll certainly last longer.
So the next time I try to keep up with the new trend, I'll be definitely thinking twice before I buy from fast fashion retailers.