Fast Fashion

Shein Graphic

GRAPHIC | Tara Espinoza

It is now late September, which means that everyone is dusting off their knit sweaters and playing “Red: Taylor’s Version” on repeat.

Of course, a new season means new clothes, and only the latest trends are acceptable.

Many online consumers have turned to fast fashion websites to get their hands on these latest fashion trends to get their items quickly.

While this is great for the average college student to get a quick and easy deal on jeans, fast fashion has also led to textile waste, pollution, and social issues that we can no longer ignore.

But let’s pull back for a moment. What exactly is fast fashion?

Fast fashion refers to brands that produce high amounts of clothing in a short amount of time. The main focus of fast fashion is to get clothing from the runway to stores as quickly as possible.

Fast fashion brands also pay close attention to trends and use them to their advantage.

For example, Bella Hadid was recently seen wearing a new style of biker shorts while running errands in Soho. Naturally, the demand for that style of biker shorts increased because Bella is not only a supermodel but an influencer in the fashion world.

Fast fashion brands such as SHIEN paid close attention to this trend and began churning out biker shorts almost identical to Bella’s, pricing them as low as $15.

Now, for the average college student who has a budget of $40 to spend on clothes, this is amazing. The same shorts that Bella Hadid wore for $15? How much better can it get?

But let’s take a step back and look behind the scenes.

While most fashion is consumed in the United States, most fast fashion brands operate within low and middle-income countries.

Because of the struggles in these countries, garment workers are severely underpaid, and most cannot afford basic needs.

One of the most popular fast fashion brands, SHIEN, ships from within China. Garments are produced in generic wholesale factories to keep costs low. Many workers are women ages 18 to 24 who make about $96 a month, barely enough to pay rent.

If that is not enough, many workers often develop life-threatening health concerns due to regularly breathing in dust and fiber from textiles. Many factories have poor airflow that forces workers to live in polluted air. This can lead to lung disease, cancer, and other respiratory issues.

Not to mention the physical strain of sewing garments together for twelve hours straight.

If you already don’t feel guilty enough for that sweater you bought from SHIEN, fast fashion has also harmed the environment.

Clothing production requires large amounts of resources and energy. When brands are churning out products as fast as they are, it causes a strain on the number of resources needed.

According to Levi Strauss & Co., producing a pair of jeans emits as much carbon as driving a car 80 miles.

Textile dyeing also produces 20 percent of global wastewater, ranking it the second most polluting industry for water.

This wastewater is then emptied directly into rivers and streams, which raises the risk of harmful materials and metals reaching people and animals.

So, since we know the risks and issues associated with fast fashion, what’s the solution?

To be able to take a stand against fast fashion, we first need to be able to identify a fast fashion brand.

Fast fashion brands are often very vague and very unclear about their suppliers and how garments are made. They are often vague about shipping locations and do not provide evidence of safe working conditions or sufficient living wages.

Low prices for seemingly high-quality items are also an indicator of a fast fashion brand.

It is simply impossible to produce a $10 sweater, pay garment workers fairly, and have a safe and sufficient work environment.

Now that we can identify fast fashion brands, we can start the shift from purchasing from these brands to sustainable clothing brands and start investing in sustainable, high-quality pieces.

Sustainable clothing brands include Levi’s, Adidas, Patagonia, Ninety Percent, and Zara.

While these are only a few brands, it is highly encouraged to conduct your research before purchasing from a brand.

Think long-term as you contemplate buying those $60 biker shorts versus that $10 pair.

Sustainable, high-quality pieces can last you a lifetime and will help our environment last a lifetime as well.