Avoiding Fast Fashion


Mattie McConnell

Fast fashion is a quickly growing problem, and more brands use it than you may think. (Photo credits to Mattie McConnell, Photo Courtesy of Mattie McConnell)

In recent years, fast fashion has become a huge problem all over the world. Though largely unknown to most consumers, this issue is becoming increasingly prevalent. To consumers, this means that the latest trends are readily available at more than affordable prices. Unfortunately, the bad aspects of fast fashion greatly outweigh the good. From negative environmental impacts to shockingly unethical labor sourcing, fast fashion is causing many problems, all in the name of profit. 

Fast fashion is a business model for clothing production that replicates trending fashion, mass-producing clothing, and selling it at low prices. In the past, clothing trends were divided up by season. Now, fashion trends come and go multiple times a month. This means that clothing companies are constantly producing more products. Many companies use the fast fashion business model because it can bring in lots of profit. Cheap labor and loose environmental ethics mean companies can keep up with the times feeding their consumers whatever is on-trend, as soon as it is on-trend. 

Though fast fashion is good for business and profit, it causes more harm than good. Fast fashion products are often made in factories where workers are underpaid, overworked, and treated unfairly. These hard-working people are often doing this work in dangerous conditions too, where things are cramped, dirty, and simply unsafe. According to the Garment Worker Center, most people working in these facilities are not paid the minimum wage and are often given just cents for each garment they complete. Most of these working people work around 65 hours a week, earning just $300 for their labors. The majority of these workers are Latina or Chinese immigrant women. 

If the many ethical issues with labor sourcing aren’t enough, fast fashion also leaves a huge environmental impact. For one, producing clothes requires a lot of water. To make one t-shirt, nearly 715 gallons of water is needed. 

Here are some brands to avoid: 

  1. Target 
  2. Urban Outfitters
  3. Forever 21
  4. Shein
  5. Zaful
  6. Cupshe
  7. RomWe
  8. Zara
  9. American Eagle and Aerie
  10. Victoria’s Secret and Pink
  11. Lululemon
  12. GAP
  13. Fashion Nova
  14. Aeropostale
  15. Hollister
  16. Rue21
  17. H&M
  18. Pretty Little Thing
  19. Billabong
  20. Rip Curl

Organizations like Good On You can be very helpful if you are wondering about the ethics of a brand or if you want to find alternatives to bigger brands that are unethical. You can use their brand directory to find reviews on most large brands, including how well they treat the people working for them, how they impact the environment, and how they treat animals (if applicable). Although it can be more expensive, shopping with brands that use ethically sourced labor and who take steps to lessen their environmental impact is a good alternative to shopping with fast fashion brands.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid fast fashion. Although it can be difficult to avoid fast fashion brands completely, taking advantage of alternatives when you can is a step in the right direction. For example, thrifting is a good way to shrink your environmental footprint, because the clothing has already been produced and paid for, meaning that even if the clothing was produced using fast fashion, you won’t be contributing to those brands again. Thrifting can be time-consuming, though, so a more convenient way to thrift is using online sites such as Goodfair and thredUp make it easy to shop sustainably. Buying handmade items from sites like Etsy is also a great way to avoid fast fashion, and support small businesses at the same time. 

When trying to avoid fast fashion you should look for some signs. If the clothing is extremely inexpensive, that may be a sign that you need to look into the brand. For example, online clothing company Shein, which is notorious for fast fashion, sells clothing for just dollars. For example, a handbag from Shein may cost you just $4, but what is it costing the people who make the products? When you buy from these brands, it supports fast fashion. 

Overall, fast fashion is a growing problem that needs to be stopped. To stop it, we must bring attention to it and avoid it whenever possible. Whether that means spending a little extra on clothes, only buying clothes second-hand, or simply buying less often in general, avoiding fast fashion is something that we should all try to do, to take this beast of an ethical issue down.