Fast Fashion and Its Dramatic Effects on Our Planet and Future

Natalia Giorgalletou

Fashion has been around for decades and for some people it is a source of creativity as they express themselves through a collection of clothing. Haute Couture, which is another word for high fashion, is expensive, fashionable clothing made by leading fashion houses, like Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior. Fast fashion, however, is inexpensive clothing that is made quickly in huge amounts by mass-market retailers, like Zara, Urban Outfitters, H&M and Topshop. There are a lot of benefits to Fast Fashion as people are constantly looking for the cheapest and easiest option, however, it also has a lot of negatives since fast fashion harms the environment and such companies have even been discovered to have employees working in poor environments.

Fast fashion, as the name says, is quick creation and, hence, even quicker purchase. Many people are partaking and giving in to fast fashion because it is such an easy way to get the clothing that we want and need. I find relief in shopping, and specifically online shopping, so I know how easy it is to give in to companies such as H&M, Forever 21, Zara and Topshop, since they are always staying on top of the fashion trends and bringing out pieces that have been on the runway a few weeks ago, by very expensive brands. People like me who are consumed by these fashion trends and fashion shows, tend to turn to these fashion companies who produce large amounts of clothes, rapidly and cheaply. We can get the latest popular clothing line for less money and less time, which is why these companies are so popular worldwide. However, fast fashion has been categorized as negative since it harms the environment and there a lot of workers that are victimized in the factories of such companies.

According to an article written by Lara Hamdan titled “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Side of Fast Fashion” companies like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 were criticized for using sweatshops where employees are treated very badly, specifically with poor pay and hazardous working surroundings. In an article written by James Hitchings-Hales titled “Hundreds of H&M and Gap Factory Workers Abused Daily, Report Says” it was pointed out that women in these factories are even victims of abuse as they are bullied, slapped and some even raped. There is a lot of exploitation in these factories and even though these people work for very long hours, they are still underpaid for their hard work and may even be prevented from taking bathroom breaks as mentioned in the article. 

In an article published at 2018 by Clean Clothes Campaign titled “’ New Research Unveils Gender-Based Violence in H&M and Gap Garment Supply Chains”, a woman named Radhika who was employed at an H&M factory in Bangalore, India, bravely came forward and said these words about her supervisor: “He pulled me out of the chair, and I fell on the floor. He hit me, including on my breasts. He pulled me up and then pushed me to the floor again. He kicked me.” After this, she filed a complaint against him, but such actions and behavior failed to end, and she had to remain silent while suffering in this atrocious job. Unfortunately, stories like Radhika’s are not rare and occur all over the world. Fast Fashion is the number one cause of such events as companies are focused on only producing products and clothing rapidly and fail to give attention to how people are treated behind the scenes. 

Furthermore, fast fashion also has a terrible impact on the environment as there is a rapid and high production, resulting in people purchasing excessive amounts of clothing. When people buy a lot of clothes, it means they’ll have a lot to toss away and that is extremely harmful to the environment since the material is non-biodegradable which means it will remain for long periods in the environment as it cannot be broken down by natural agents. According to an article titled “The Fashion Industry Emits More Carbon Than International Flights and Maritime Shipping Combined” written by Morgan Mc-Fall-Johnsen, “On average, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than they did in 2000” and on top of that they only keep the clothes for half as long, meaning that all those clothes will end up in landfills. As Dana Thomas, author of ‘Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes” said “zero waste is the goal, and you’re not hitting the zero waster targets if you’re overproducing,” and that is exactly what fast fashion companies are doing; overproducing and as a result harming the earth.

For a lot of people, fast fashion is the only thing they can afford and have access to, especially for college students who need quick and easy access to clothing that is cheap. However, some alternatives can assist us to move past fast fashion since there are so many negatives associated with it. Thrift stores and secondhand stores are trendy today and there are a lot of such stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan where a lot of fashionably inspired people, especially college students, get most of their clothes from. Fashion comes and goes, and different styles keep coming in and out, hence, why thrift stores are so popular. Also, we can borrow clothes from relatives or friends when we have an important event. Instead of buying a brand-new dress that may be costly, bad for the environment and may even be worn once and forgotten, borrowing is a great alternative. If you are a college student and you have a lot of clothes in your closet or you need a pair of shoes for an event in which you probably won’t wear again, visit one of those websites or apps where people are selling their old clothes online, like Depop or ThredUp. These are brilliant websites in which people purchase secondhand clothing that is in great condition, and you save the planet in the process! 

College students and even younger people have the power to make a change, a change that will better our planet and ensure a brighter future for all of us. Fast fashion is an easy trap for all of us to fall in since everything is so easily accessible and so cheap. However, the working circumstances in these fast fashion factories are horrid, and should not be permitted, but by purchasing from fast fashion stores you’re accepting what these fast fashion companies are doing. Also, our planet is heavily affected by these companies and unfortunately, if we continue with such a pace, our survival is not ensured further than 2045.

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