Walking into H&M can seem like a dream come true. All of the trends that were seen on the runways this season are already carefully styled on mannequins and better yet: they cost less than $30! What could be better than that?
The prices are what make fast fashion so fun. Consumers can try out the latest trends with little consequence, because if they don’t like a piece of clothing, they can toss it sans guilt. It was only 20 bucks anyway, right? If that knit dress rips at the seams two weeks after being purchased, who cares? It already out of style.
There is one huge issue with this way for shopping. It’s destroying the earth. When clothing gets thrown away, it ends up in landfills, even if was intended to be donated to second hand clothing stores. There is just too much of it to go around. Every year, Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills.
Another issue with fast fashion is the lengths that companies will go to in order to get clothing made inexpensively. Factories in India and China are in constant competition for business, and big businesses will go to the one that will give them the best price.
When the demand for cheap labor is so high, factories cut corners in order to get business. Factory workers are exploited and safety laws are thrown out the window.
In 2013, a garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed because safety regulations had been ignored. 1,129 workers were killed while 2,515 were injured. It was reported that although signs showed that the factory was unsafe, the workers were not allowed to leave.
Reasons like this show the absolute dire need for reformation in the fashion industry. The reality is that if consumers will continue to buy cheap clothing, big businesses will continue to provide it. That is why it is up to consumers to turn things around.
Fashion does not have to take a hit in order for it to be sustainable. In fact, it’s giving people a chance to be even more creative. One way to make a difference is to shop for second hand clothing. Not only will this limit the need for more clothing to be produced, but it will also encourage people to create their own unique style.
Another way to shop sustainably is to adopt that philosophy of quality over quantity. Fashion that is made with sustainable fabric and by expert craftsman is usually a bit pricey. This also means that it will last longer. Check out local boutiques and see what they have to offer. An 80-dollar pair of jeans that will last years could be worth more than a pair of 20-dollar jeans that will last for five wears.
The fashion industry is a mess right now. We are the generation that has to fix it. It doesn’t mean that all of the fun has to be sucked out of fashion; it just means that we have to be more responsible.
Vote with your wallet. Consumers hold all of the power and where we chose to spend our money determines how businesses conduct themselves. We can change the course of fashion and we can take charge.
For some more information on sustainability in fashion, check out the movie called The True Cost, which is now streaming on Netflix!