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Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Environment and This Is Why It Matters

Fast fashion is a highly profitable business model that takes current trends and high-fashion designs and mass produces them for little to no cost. This method has an enormous environmental impact due to the speed of production and disposal of the garments. In order to make clothing in mass quantities, a considerable amount of energy and resources are required. In fact, the fashion industry already has the reputation of being one of the worst industries for the environment. Fast fashion does not help this issue. Fast fashion companies are sometimes hard to recognize and customers consistently and unknowingly support these companies. 

Fast fashion is incredibly appealing to customers. The clothing is extremely affordable, trendy, and a direct reflection of chic Pinterest boards. Yves Saint Laurent put it best, “fashion fades, style is eternal.” Fashion trends move at lightning speed. They come-and-go before you can even decide if you like the trend or not. Fast fashion brands don’t design their clothes to last forever or be worn and washed for an unlimited amount of time. The pieces are poorly made which reflects the low price point. 

Young woman looking at different racks of clothes at a store.
Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay

Retailers like Zara, Forever 21, Zaful, and Shein rule the fast fashion industry. And if you have ever shopped at any of these retailers, the quality of their clothes definitely reflects the price. My middle school wardrobe consisted of almost entirely Forever 21 graphic tees and mini skirts. It’s safe to say that none of those pieces lasted very long or remained in-style. 

The top three sources of global pollutants are dyeing and finishing, yarn preparation, and fiber production according to a 2018 report by Quantis International. On top of that, the United Nations found that more than 60% of fabric fibers are synthetic which come from fossil fuels. This means that even when your clothes end up in a landfill, they will not decay. Ever. The same cheaply made and poorly designed pieces will still be here in a hundred years. 

The fashion industry is also one of the largest consumers of water on the planet. It takes 700 gallons of water to make a singular cotton shirt and 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans. It is hard to wrap your head around these numbers. Try to imagine all of the water that Zara or Forever 21 use each day. It is astronomical. 

pink shirt jeans torso stomach
Molly Longest / Her Campus

It is easy to ignore all of the negative effects fast fashion has on the environment, especially when the clothes are cheap and trendy. As a college student, the low prices are extremely enticing. The pieces reflect what influencers are wearing and what everyone sees on their social media feeds. 

I try to remember that when it comes to fashion and my own personal wardrobe, quality is better than quantity. I would rather have fewer, higher-quality pieces of clothing that I could potentially pass down to my children when I am older. I have so many garments gifted to me by my mother that she wore when she was my age. I cherish these pieces, and they are still great quality, even all of the years and washes later. I hope I can do the same for my children. 

Woman looks at a photo on Instagram on her phone.
Photo by Kate Torline from Unsplash

Yet, if you continue to buy from fast-fashion retailers, your wardrobe will have to be replenished when the pieces become unwearable or quickly lose their popularity. It is incredibly important to be aware of the issues that surround fast fashion and actively try to avoid shopping at these stores whenever possible. It is our job as customers to hold companies accountable to ethical standards and practices. Fast fashion companies are highly profitable because they profit off of impressionable individuals who are hopelessly grabbing on to the trends they see online.

Fashion is about having your own personal, unique style. Instead of buying into trends that will fade within the month, try buying staple pieces that will last a lifetime or shop second-hand! You can find unbelievable and truly one-of-a-kind pieces at your local thrift store without harming the environment.

Stop buying into trends and start investing in your own personal style. After all, fashion icon Iris Apfel said it best: “more is more and less is a bore.”

Isabella Silber

CU Boulder '22

Isabella is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a Strategic Communication major with an emphasis in Public Relations and a Journalism minor. When she is not flipping through fashion magazines, she can be found obsessing over a pair of sneakers, running up the Flatirons, and reading in a nearby coffee shop.
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