Opinion: Fast Fashion isn’t worth your money


Ella Adams, Managing Editor

Fast fashion is cheap, accessible and trendy clothing. The name “fast fashion” comes from brands’ abilities to get new designs from runways to consumers in a short time. On the surface, fast fashion is another feature of capitalism: getting the latest fashions to a wide variety of consumers at an affordable price. But, behind the glamour of celebrity endorsements and designer brands, fast fashion is a destructive industry. Underpaid and exploited workers and destruction of the environment are two major examples of why fast fashion isn’t worth your money.

Textile and garment workers, mostly women and children, earn some of the lowest wages in the world. One hundred percent of Bangladeshi garment workers and 99% of Vietnamese garment workers make below a living wage, according to a 2019 report by Oxfam. Some workers in Vietnam are paid as low as 2.4 cents per piece according to a woman named Na who Oxfam interviewed for their report. Na has worked in garment factories for at least 8 years and has only seen a .1 cent increase in her wages. In addition to poverty level wages, garment workers’ working conditions in developing countries are poor. Fast fashion brands outsource production to places where they have no legal obligation to ensure decent working conditions. Many of these subcontractors are unauthorized, unregistered and operate without government regulation. A 2020 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of child and forced labor within the fashion industry in 29 countries. Unethical labor practices are not limited to developing countries. The U.S. Department of Justice investigated fast fashion brand Fashion Nova in 2017 for underpaying workers in Los Angeles sweatshops. Most of the workers were undocumented immigrants. Purchasing from fast fashion brands allows for the exploitation of women and children to continue and grow.

Environmental damage by fast fashion production is detrimental. One-fifth of the world’s water pollution comes from textile mills, and Chinese textile mills release three billion tons of soot a year into the atmosphere. Many chemicals used in production, such as dyes and solvents, are carcinogenic and mutagenic. These hazardous chemicals pose an extreme risk to workers, communities and the environment. Clothes from fast fashion brands are not made to last long. Brands are notorious for selling cheap, poorly made clothing that’s meant to be thrown away. Because of how disposable fast fashion is, about 101 million tons of textiles are thrown away globally each year. The waste and environmental damage the industry causes far outweighs its convenience and its price.

Responsible consumers should stay away from fast fashion, but what are the alternatives? Ethical and sustainable brands, such as North Carolina based Reborn Clothing, Co., are an option, but tend to be more expensive. Thrifting and consignment are more affordable and there are plenty of options right here in Boone, including Anna Banana’s and Ram’s Rack.

Fast fashion is an unethical and irresponsible industry that makes millions off of exploiting women and children and destroying the environment.  For cheap clothes that will only last a couple of months and will be out of trend even sooner, fast fashion isn’t worth your money.