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Fast Fashion

How Sustainability Is Killing The ‘Fast Fashion’ Industry

When we typically think about sustainable ways of living, the first things that normally come to mind are reducing our plastic use, taking public transportation, using solar energy, recycling, and so on. However, we never think about how our fashion choices affect our carbon footprint. Sustainable fashion is a relatively new concept in relation to climate change, but thinking about the ways that we buy fashion and its environmental impact is actually very important in terms of fixing the damage that climate change has done. 

If you haven’t heard of “sustainable fashion,” you may have heard of its counterpart, fast fashion. Fast fashion refers to brands such as H&M, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, and basically any other big brand that carries mass-produced retail that embodies fresh runway looks that made it right onto the sale rack. Fast fashion has grown immensely in popularity, mainly because it allows consumers to by high-end looking garments that are fresh and trendy at an extremely reduced cost. The controversy lies within why the clothing is so cheap. There’s the obvious reasoning that these companies know cheaply made clothing is likely to wear down quicker, causing customers to have to repurchase items. Then there’s the greater concern over the ethics behind the clothing production in relation to its price point. How these companies source their labor overseas is a major concern, as most of these stores are constantly updating the items they carry to keep up with demand. So it’s assumed that there are extremely underpaid and overworked factory employees who are feeling the real effect of that demand through their long hours and low wages. 

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As more individuals become aware of the many dilemmas in the fast fashion industry, sustainable fashion is rising to take over. Sustainable fashion is all about selling well-made pieces of clothing that get restocked at a slower rate. While that may slow distribution in some aspects, depending on where the clothing is coming from, it’s more green. The main reason sustainability in fashion hasn’t blown up in the way that fast fashion brands have is cost. Sustainable fashion requires higher quality materials and fair labor costs, which tends to get pricey but ethically, is completely necessary. 

When labor, material production, and distribution is all done at a local level, it’s always going to be more expensive as opposed to getting all of it done overseas. However, the environmental benefits of not receiving constant shipments from overseas of items made by underpaid and overworked laborers and flown out by cargo planes that are constantly emitting greenhouse gases is quite remarkable. 

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Many individuals criticize the sustainable fashion movement because of the high price point, making it seem like it’s something only upper class individuals actually have access to, thus putting the blame for climate change on the lower class for buying fast fashion, just because it’s what’s affordable. However, sustainable fashion isn’t just about buying clothing from high-end, locally-produced boutiques that try to sell a dress for $400+. It’s about sustainability! In general, when it comes to how we make changes in our own lives to greater benefit the environment, there’s always multiple ways to go about it, and sustainable fashion is no different!

It’s always best to check out local brands for anything in your area and support that business. Local small businesses are the epitome of sustainability, as all their work and materials are typically accomplished at a regional level. As stated previously, however, this means that cost for goods can be more expensive, so what other options are out there? Thrift stores and second hand shopping in general is always an amazing way to contribute to sustainable fashion. Most thrift stores receive all of their second-hand items of clothing from local individuals, making the carbon footprint of that process close to nothing! In addition, thrifting is extremely cheap, especially compared to local boutiques. 

In the same light, donating and selling your clothes has the same impact as buying new ones from a local store/thrift shop. Instead, you’re just now contributing to someone else’s sustainable purchase. Additionally, always be self-aware of your retail buying habits and try to reduce excessive and needless shopping habits, as it all further contributes to climate change in regard to production, labor, shipment, and restocking. So the next time you need a new sweater for the Christmas party, check out your local Goodwill first.