A Glimpse Behind the Grandeur of Fast Fashion
Trendy clothes that are dirt cheap sounds like every fashion-oriented person’s dream, right? Websites like Shein and Romwe make this dream a reality, providing a remarkable array of on-trend clothes at remarkably low prices. But this momentary bliss is causing long term misery.
Fast fashion websites, such as the two aforementioned, mass-produce clothing with materials that are devastating to the environment. The primary textiles choice of these brands are petrochemical-based synthetic fabrics that will either take hundreds of years to decompose or will be incinerated, all the while releasing greenhouse gases, further exacerbating the detrimental effects of climate change.
According to “Out of Fashion – The Hidden Cost of Clothing is a Water Pollution Crisis” by Mike Scott, in 2015, the products made by the textile and apparel industries used about 79 billion cubic meters of water, and that, globally, 80-90% of this wastewater gets returned to the environment untreated. This releases microplastics into the water, making it unusable for consumption and detrimental to sea life. While water is being polluted creating these products, countless countries lack access to safe, readily available water at home, as reported by WHO and UNICEF.
Inexpensive clothes provide consumers with the means to buy into microtrends, very specific fashion goods or aesthetics that are fleeting and will die out quickly, without feeling a financial burden. When the desire for an on-trend wardrobe mixes with ridiculously low prices, overconsumption occurs. Instead of buying pieces that will last a long time, websites like these enable their consumers to buy and buy. For the most part, fast fashion items are not made to be sustainable. Their textiles are cheap quality and are not durable, which only exacerbates this vicious cycle of overconsumption. This high demand makes factories practice unethical methods to produce these products. In a report from BBC sourced from a Swiss advocacy group called Public Eye, BBC reported that Shein factory workers recorded working approximately 75-hour weeks, which violate local Chinese labor laws. A representative from Public Eye said there was “enormous pressure” on the workers to have a speedy turnaround for the clothing, suggesting that workers were paid per item of clothing made. Without straightforward transparency from fashion companies, consumers are left in the dark on the true workplace conditions and ethics behind their purchases from these companies.
Fashion, while fun and exciting, is a cog in the world’s industrial economy. Being mindful when purchasing clothing can prevent the world’s detriment. A great way to do a little bit of research is to check out websites like Good On You or Project Just. Websites like these gather information and rate the ethicality and sustainability of different clothing brands, providing insight on the different brands to support. With more easily accessible information, us consumers are able to make informed decisions on where we offer our patronage.