Ethics in my fashion? It’s more likely than you think!
Whenever I go shopping, I look for clothes that are both cute and in my price range, and most often these clothes come from fast fashion stores such as Forever 21, Zara, or H&M. Fast fashion refers to clothing stores that are the most up to date with fashion trends and mass produces these clothes for immediate sale in their stores. mass-producing clothes that follow these trends and then almost immediately selling them in their stores. This method helps produce clothes that are more affordable than couture, and more accessible to the general public. However, fast fashion also has a negative side to it.
The fast fashion industry is a hazard to the environment, producing 60 billion square meters of leftover textiles that end up being thrown away. The obsession with keeping up with trends in fast fashion also contributes to growing environmental waste. To keep up with upcoming trends, people buy fast fashion items that either fall apart due to poor workmanship or are thrown away after they go out of style, and most of this clothing ends up at landfills instead of being properly recycled. Not to mention that the chemicals used to dye clothing in factories are often toxic and make clothing resistant to breakdown, meaning that the clothing stays in the environment for hundreds of years after it’s made.
Unfortunately, the issues with the fast fashion industry don’t stop there. Fast fashion stores often manufacture their products in unsafe factories with workers who are either severely underpaid or not paid at all. Some of these workers are children who work for hours in dangerous conditions for next to no pay. While garment factories could buy machines to do intricate embroidery and beading for them, they are unwilling to shell out the money to do so, especially when they can employ desperate workers for much less. Workers who don’t work from garment factories often work from home, sewing feverishly all day long in some of the poorest regions of the world, for wages that can barely be called wages at all.
Luckily, there are alternatives to fast fashion! Eco-conscious brands that prioritize making their clothes as environmentally friendly as possible exist, as well as brands that don’t use sweatshops at all. Unfortunately, because of their environmentally friendly materials and modes of production, these clothes are often more expensive. This makes them inaccessible to a broader range of people. A cheaper, yet still eco-conscious alternative would be thrifting or buying second-hand. By thrifting, you are giving old clothes a new life, and you can even repurpose these clothes by DIY-ing them. Thrifting is convenient and affordable for a large range of people while simultaneously being environmentally friendly. If buying second-hand clothes isn’t your cup of tea, performing clothing swaps with friends or even learning how to make some of your own clothes is always an option. However you choose to buy your clothes, it’s always important to be aware of where they come from and the impact that you are making on the environment.
Not everyone can afford to be environmentally conscious or shell out tons of money for a fair trade outfit. For some people, buying fast fashion or thrifting is a necessity, and they don’t have the luxury of considering the ethical and environmental implications of the clothes they buy. Knowing where your clothes come from doesn’t mean that you have to constantly stay away from any sort of fast fashion, especially since it’s generally affordable and easy to find. You can always protect the environment in ways besides not shopping fast fashion. However, if you have the means to do so, consider shopping eco-consciously. Fashion can be both environmentally friendly and fun!