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The Problem with Fast Fashion and TikTok Trends

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Maryland chapter.

TikTok has become the hub for the latest trends, from Y2K to coquette to cottage core. These trends quickly become viral yet die off just as quick. But what happens to these fashion pieces when they become out of style? Fast fashion brands harm the environment and exploit workers in order to mass produce trendy clothing.

Fast fashion brands such as Shein and Fashion Nova are popular on TikTok in the form of huge fashion hauls, which are possible due to the brands [cheap price and on-trend options. But these fast trends and cheap fashion can have a tremendous impact on the environment. According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is “the second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 2-8% of global carbon emissions.” This is fueled by the quick turnover of fashion trends, with the UN reporting that, “the average consumer buys 60% more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago. Each item is kept for only half as long.” This could be due to the quick overturn of what styles are trending on TikTok.

Fast fashion not only affects the environment, but also the rights of workers in the industry. A New York Times investigation reported that Fashion Nova factories pay the workers in their American factories as little as [$2.77 an hour. Fashion Nova has denied these allegations. Shein has also faced similar allegations. In Channel 4’s documentary Inside the Shein Machine, it’s revealed that Chinese workers work up to 18 hours a day, with research from Public Eye reporting salaries for a dress as “a maximum of 3 yuan (47 US cents).” Unsafe conditions were also reported, workers in factories without windows or emergency exits. Shein admitted to these breaches on their employees and called for an investigation into the unacceptable working conditions.

There are a few ways you can keep up with the latest trends without contributing to fast fashion or supporting unethical brands. One way is by thrifting clothing. Not only can this help the environment, but it also is a great way to get clothes for an affordable price. Uptown Cheapskate on Baltimore Avenue is a great place to donate clothes and find new styles.There is also a local Salvation Army on Kenilworth Avenue. Another way to avoid buying fast fashion brands is by researching before you purchase. This is a great way to ensure you’re shopping from sustainable brands that do less harm to the environment and treat their workers fairly. Apps like Good On You and Renoon can help with finding sustainable brands and with making more informed decisions. Lastly, shopping locally is a great way to give back to your community and shop sustainably. By supporting local businesses, you can keep up with the latest trends without supporting the harm that fast fashion brands cause. By using these tips, you can help the planet and support workers rights in style.

Journalism student at Philip Merrill College of Journalism at UMD