The truth behind the fast fashion industry

Graphic by Dana Dauletgalikyzy

Look through any American teenager’s closet and it’s filled with the same few brands: Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, and Hollister. What all those stores have in common is that they are all considered “fast fashion”. Merriam-Webster defines fast fashion as, “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”

Although those stores offer affordable and fashionable styles, buying fast fashion comes at a huge cost. Producing fast fashion starts with fabric. Many of the farms that grow cotton, and other fibers used to produce clothing, use harmful pesticides on their crops. According the documentary, “The True Cost” several villages in India that grow cotton have seen an increase in children born with severe birth defects. These defects are directly linked to the pesticides and other chemicals used in growing cotton.

Once the fibers are collected they are sent to a sweatshop to be made into fabric and then sewn into clothing. This typically takes place in a developing country where women and children labor for long hours each day for minuscule pay.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 168 million children ages 5 to 14 work in sweatshops in developing countries. These garment workers labor for almost 100 hours a week in dangerous conditions for wages as low as $25 a month, in some countries.

In 2013 the Rana Plaza disaster occured. Rana Plaza was an eight-story sweatshop in Bangladesh that collapsed due to structural issues. 1,134 garment workers died and 2,500 were injured. What’s important is that conditions in Rana Plaza are similar to the conditions in most sweatshops across the world.

Not only is fast fashion a major threat to human lives, it also poses a major environmental threat. In 2017, The MacArthur Foundation reported that 1.26 billion tons of greenhouse emissions are produced by the fashion industry each year. In order to quickly produce clothing the world’s resources are being depleted while greenhouse gases are being emitted.

The chemicals used to dye cloth are often toxic and end up in rivers. Due to the nature of fast fashion, once a piece of clothing falls out of style consumers discard it. The outdated fashions end up in a landfill.

An alternative to fast fashion is sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is the exact opposite of fast fashion. Sustainable clothing brands use environmentally conscious methods for creating their clothing and pay their laborers fair wages.

The concept of shopping sustainability has been brought to the attention of young people across all social media platforms. Influencers have begun to promote purchasing from sustainable brands. This trend has taken to young across the world since.

Although, these sustainable fashion brands tend to be unaffordable for many teenagers. That’s why teens still gravitate towards Forever 21’s cheap prices, even with the knowledge of the exploitation within the fast fashion industry.

An alternative to buying from expensive sustainable clothing shops is to buy clothes from thrift and consignment stores. You are giving these clothes a new life, instead of them ending up in the landfill.

The future of fast fashion is looking grim as more and more young people learn about the dark side of the industry. For today, be conscious of what you buy and wear it comes from.

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