I wish that I could say I haven’t succumbed to the grasp of fast fashion, but that would be a lie. Do you know what fast fashion is? It is stores like Forever 21, H&M, and Claire’s, to name the bare minimum. These are retail establishments that curate quick lines by showing up to fashion shows, copying the new looks, making cheap replicas, and selling them for a low price.
They are successful because we live in a fashion world dictated by quickly changing trends. Fashion isn’t marketed to be sustainable, but rather than we have to always change. For a savvy shopper, this can be great, if you shop off season and off trend you’ll get massive discounts on clothing that they need off the floor, to make room for the new wave of clothing and accessories.
It’s a lucrative business model that ends up fucking over everyone from designers to the environment.
I’ve found in recent years that fast fashion is the worst. Stores like Forever 21, put out cheap stuff that is meant to break, fall apart, and be tossed so you’ll purchase the newest items. I’m talking about those $4 earrings that turned your ears green, or the button down top where the buttons popped off and the armpit ripped open for no reason. They feel cheap because you’re getting what you pay for.
On top of that they steal from small fashion brands and sell knock-offs of items these artists and indie brands have put their heart and souls into. Recently Forever 21, stole the t-shirt design that says Wild Feminist, from the brand Wildfang. What makes it so awful is that each purchase on Forever 21 takes away from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, as 10% of each t-shirt purchase is donated. CEO Emma Mcilroy stated in an interview with Refinery 29, “I was a little heartbroken when I heard about it, to be perfectly honest,” she added. “It’s the product that we’re most proud of and worked the hardest to create.”
I’ve seen other companies blatantly steal enamel pin designs, t-shirts, dress cuts, shoes, and so much more. I could write an entire separate post of all of the other designs in jewelry, clothing, and shoes that not just Forever 21, but high end brands has ripped off this year. It just goes to show that independent artists are disrespected constantly by the fashion world. They work hard to produce pieces they are proud of, only to have them stolen, reproduced and sold for fractions of what they’re worth by companies who already make $400 billion a year. It sucks, and it happens frequently. Yes, we all love being able to get designer knock-offs for a fraction of the price, but try to be supportive of indie designers.
Then we have to of course take a step back and look at how ethical a clothing line is. If you remember years back there was the Rana Plaza factory collapse in India that killed over 1,000 people. This was the first time that the harsh conditions of workers in factories was in mainstream media, and how this could have been prevented with proper safety precautions. When you shop fast fashion, or unethical fashion, you are supporting these corporations who profit off of the suffering of humans.
Now before you say that when we stop buying their items, then those workers won’t be making any wages, that is fair, and yes, factories close. But having 1,000 deaths because we want cheap clothing, or having people lose jobs and have to find safer ones seems like a better option. When we the consumer, begin to boycott sketchy factory and production facilities, companies are forced to make a change. Even Nike changed back in 2005 amid criticism, and has become more transparent. Along with H&M. They aren’t perfect, by any means, but they’re taking steps in the right direction by increasing wages for workers, having safer working conditions, and generally trying to be sustainable.
If you’re not familiar with what factory workers are going through, they’re overworked, unable to unionize, they’re sexually harassed, have hazardous working environments, poor health, and don’t have basic human rights. If you still don’t think that’s good enough, The Clean Clothes Campaign, is a great resource to get started on reading about what factory workers go through. Not only that but there are firsthand accounts of what they go through.
I know that I am trying to more ethical in my fashion decisions. I will continue to buy from secondhand shops, and also continue to buy more expensive pieces from brands that I have checked using either the app Good on You, which shows how transparent and ethical brands are or, Shop Ethical for large consumer brands. Let’s start to be more conscious of where are clothes come from, and find pieces that are made to last, not those that are meant to be worn once and thrown away.
Don’t forget to clothing waste is the largest and one of the most hazardous forms of waste we have. Fast fashion is the largest contributor to this pollution. Shop more thrift shops and secondhand stores, support independent artists who make their items in house, read up on your favorite brands to see how transparent they are in their treatment of workers, and let’s become better consumers. Fast fashion doesn’t have to dictate our lives and our wallets, we can make the change to have safer factories and higher wages for workers.
What local brands do you know that are ethical and sustainable?