Fast fashion is the current era of fashion wherein trendy, cheap clothing brands take ideas from runways and push them into stores at a rapid pace (Rauturier). Fast fashion companies can make a product go from an idea to reality sometimes in as little as five weeks. Then, they sell these products at a fraction of what you could get them for from the designer brands they are ripped off of. So if fast fashion means getting nice looking clothes at an affordable price, what makes it so wrong?
First off, the money saved by buying fast fashion products has to come from somewhere and it is not coming from the companies’ profits. What happens instead is that money gets taken out of the paychecks of the people making the clothing. A new report from the Global Slavery Index found that the fashion industry puts more money towards modern slavery than any other sector other than tech (Global Slavery Index). This happens because fast fashion companies outsource their production to factories in developing countries where there is more leniency in laws regarding child labor and minimum wages. This is what allows these companies to sell their products at low prices, while still keeping the maximum amount of profit.
This rapid production also has a massive negative impact on the environment. The culture of fast fashion encourages its consumers to always want the newest style and get rid of the older ones. However, this comes at a high cost to our environment as clothing is often made of non-biodegradable materials and there is no efficient recycling program in effect. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation showed that approximately one garbage truck worth of clothing is landfilled or burned every second of every day of the year (Riley). That is an absurd amount of waste! So not only are we dealing with the toxic emissions from the production of the clothes themselves, but we’re also dealing with an industry that promotes the constant disposal and replacement of its products!
I know this all sounds hopeless, but there are ways that we as individuals can make a serious change! Fast fashion is not the only kind of fashion. I know that we, as college students, often don’t have sufficient funds to go out and buy quality clothing from quality brands. But we don’t have to! Countless brands and stores around the world are working to change this culture of fast fashion. Here are a few ways you can help:
1. Thrift that ish!
I know this sounds difficult but thrifting is such a fun way to buy unique clothing that is typically much better quality and much cheaper than anything you can buy at Forever 21 or Zara! My favorite way to go about this is good old-fashioned Goodwill thrifting. I love going to a Goodwill or Salvation Army and digging through the piles of awful clothing to find that diamond in the rough! After all, the journey is half the fun.
Kate Rasmussen (that’s me!) wearing James Jeans from Goodwill
(P.S. These jeans retail for around $200, but I got them for $8!!)
Angela Sourial (on the left) wearing a cheetah print dress from Goodwill and
(on the right) wearing a Juicy Couture sweater from Goodwill
Tatum Bernat wearing a thrifted suede jacket with fringe and a thrifted denim skirt
Anna Tsai (on the left) wearing a white turtleneck sweater from Goodwill and
(on the right) wearing a black leather jacket from Goodwill
Meredith Grubb wearing a thrifted blue floral dress
2. Check out local or online consignment stores!
Another personal favorite! I’m partial to consignment stores because my hometown Woodland, California had the cutest consignment store and at least 50% of my wardrobe is from there. Consignment stores are places that facilitate the resale of your clothes and give you a piece of the profit! Places like Trove LA (which is less than 2 miles away from campus) or Wasteland in Santa Monica are great options. Are you more of an online shopping type? No worries! Sites like Depop and Thredup have you covered!
Emily Pelstring wearing a striped dress from a local flea market in Spain
Tyler Law wearing a Levi’s T-shirt from Plato’s Closet
Top: wearing a green scarf from Beacon’s Closet in Manhattan
Bottom Left: wearing a strapless cheetah print dress from Depop
Bottom Right: wearing snake print pants from Beacon’s Closet in Manhattan
3. Shop sustainable brands!
Buying second-hand clothing isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference! Shopping sustainable brands make you feel as good as you look! Brands like Reformation and Patagonia are making huge strides in the sustainable fashion industry.
Adley Wechsler wearing a white sherpa jacket from Reformation
Tatum Bernat (left) and her boyfriend wearing matching Patagonia
Nicolina Duhs (right) wearing a black jumpsuit from Reformation
Next time you’re tempted by the thousands of styles and low prices at stores like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, or Fashion Nova, I challenge you to take a trip instead to one of these more sustainable and ethical options. And above all else, let’s start buying clothes with long time use in mind! As Vivienne Westwood says, “Buy less, choose well, make it last!”