The Downside of Buying Fast Fashion

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Say NO to fast fashion sign on white paper over heap of female clothes

Hannah McNemar, Staff Reporter

A new school year just started, and as many students are going back to school, they go back to school shopping for supplies and clothes. In this day and age of the Internet and Covid, most people in their teens and 20s are doing their shopping online. Gone are the days of going to a department store and spending hours picking out and trying on clothes. Nowadays, we don’t even have to leave the comfort of our own homes to pick out and receive our new clothes.

A lot of online brands and stores like Fashion Nova, ROWME, and SHIEN are gaining traction for being cheap and fashionable, but there are ethical consequences to buying these garments. Fast fashion is hazardous to the environment, made from often unregulated and toxic materials, and typically produced in sweatshops with unethical work conditions.

I’m sure most people know that fast fashion is bad for the environment, but do you realize how bad? To make one cotton T-shirt, it takes 715 gallons of water, and for one pair of denim jeans, it takes about 1,800 gallons of water. Also, it takes a cotton T-shirt about six months to decompose and a pair of denim jeans about 10 to 12 months to fully biodegrade. A lot of fast fashion is made with cheap, synthetic textiles that don’t even break down like cotton or denim. So, it is better for the environment to go to a thrift store and buy a used garment than to buy a new one. This also helps save tons of clothing from going into landfills. In 2018, about 11.3 million tons of textiles were sent to landfills in the United States.

Fast fashion is not just bad for the environment, it is also bad for the health and safety of you, the consumer; but even more so for the workers making the clothes. Since the clothes are sold for cheap prices, the manufacturers use cheap and synthetic textiles, that are often unregulated and can contain high levels of lead and other chemicals that are toxic to us. This is can be bad for the health of the buyer, but it is extremely dangerous for the workers who spend hours a day around and touching these materials. Workers are often underpaid and face dangerous work conditions. These online fashion companies manufacture their clothes in other countries where working conditions are not well-regulated, and can get away with poor conditions and underpaying their workers.

Have you ever thought about how you are able to buy these clothes for such low prices? Think about it, if you pay $5 for a brand new T-shirt, how much do you think the worker who made it got paid? Probably not a lot. The next time you want to go shopping for clothes online, think about where these clothes are coming from and the conditions that the workers who make them face.

If you need to buy new clothes, please shop sustainability and from companies that are transparent about their materials and manufacturing. A few companies to look at the next time you go online shopping are VETTA, Reformation, ADAY, ABLE, Summersalt, Whimsy + Row, and Levi’s.