The onset of COVID-19 propelled fast fashion by pushing more towards websites with this quick clothing as people bought more than ever before, with NPR reporting “fast fashion…ramped up.” Fast fashion, defined as ‘the design, manufacturing and marketing method that focuses on rapidly produced high volumes of clothing,” distributes clothing at a rapid pace for cheap prices that make it highly accessible for people. Examples are seen in popular stores from Victoria’s Secret to Urban Outfitters to GAP. These stores are characterized by cheap clothing that is often worn only a few times.
Fast fashion allows for more people to afford different clothes, and the quickness with which it can be produced presents a variety of different styles and fashion from which to choose. “Fast fashion makes a lot of the cute and trendy clothes cheap and affordable for those who are unable to spend a lot of budget on leisure without sacrificing much,” senior Megan Yang said. Yet, despite the advantages like allowing more people to buy more clothing, fast fashion has drawbacks.
With the proliferation of fast fashion, clothes are produced with lower quality. In congruence with the lower prices, costs of the production of the clothing drop as well. This is due to cheaper materials and merchandise, as companies lower opportunities to spend a lot of money on the clothing in order to still make a profit. In addition, with faster production in fast fashion, regulations and checkpoints to ensure quality clothing are skipped. Clothes are more likely to be missing characteristics, such as buttons, and have malfunctioning zippers with this abbreviated process.
With lower quality clothing, fast fashion results in increased waste as people’s clothes deteriorate at a quicker rate. Now, around $450 billion worth of textiles are thrown away globally, according to the National Geographic. This reaps much environmental harm, as thousands of bits of plastics from the clothing itself are washed into the ocean. Environmental harm is not limited to waste as fast fashion also creates much pollution. The many factories and quick output leak many chemicals in the air as fast fashion produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions. That is more pollution than created by international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Above all, human rights issues emerge with the proliferation of fast fashion. With the increase in fashion and rapid production, factory workers abroad are subjected to subpar working conditions, including poor lighting, toxic chemicals and more. These conditions led to the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where garment factories that provide fast fashion ignored workers’ complaints of building cracks and an evacuation order. Thus, 1129 workers died and more were injured. Workers are paid low wages as companies cut corners to increase revenues. 85% of factory garment workers do not earn minimum wage, making between 2-6 cents per piece made, giving them an average salary of $300 dollars a week.
As people become more aware of these negative consequences, global movements have emerged to inform the public of these aforementioned issues and promote alternatives to fast fashion. Documentaries like “The True Cost” and “The Next Black” focus on the worldwide impact of fast fashion, from interviewing impoverished workers in foreign factories to gathering scientific data on its impact. Clothing brands specifically designed to be ethical and sustainable are emerging in this new movement, as websites and magazines promote this alternative shopping experience to reduce fast fashion. Regulations like school uniforms support this movement, as the uniforms are used each year rather than students needing to buy different clothes from fast fashion companies each year.