Why You Should Care About Fast Fashion

Scenario

Picture this. You and some friends decide to take a trip to the mall because you NEED some new, trendy winter sweaters. Naturally, you stop at Forever 21, H&M, or another big chain store that sells some cute clothes at an affordable price. A pretty typical situation right?

Well, there’s a catch that comes with those “cute clothes at an affordable price”, in fact, it's a pretty big one. Most of these big name stores are involved with a process called "fast fashion".

What is it?

The reality to the cute clothes at an affordable price is that they were most likely made by child workers who are underpaid, mistreated workers in Bangladesh. This means retailers can mass produce items for one season and be able to move on to the next season easily and without much cost. It's a topic that only recently seems to be garnering widespread attention and concern, but still, many consumers have no idea that it exists. The surge and activism of late is mostly due to a documentary entitled The True Cost (2015) which was recently added on Netflix.

The True Cost

Some History

Think back to history class and learning about the 1800s, namely, the Industrial Revolution. Before this, fashion was slow and mostly handmade. “The Industrial Revolution introduced new technology  – like the sewing machine. Clothes became easier, quicker and cheaper to make.” Around this time, sweatshops emerged along with resulting safety issues, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 which took the lives of many young female garment workers.

Gyfcat

Why You Should Care

Flash forward to the 2000s, “ low-cost fashion reached its zenith. Online shopping took off, and fast fashion retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop took over the high street. These brands took the looks and design elements from the top fashion houses and reproduced them quickly and cheaply”. The pressure to make these clothes oftentimes results in cutting corners with environmental concerns. Fast fashion uses cheap, toxic textile dyes – and the fashion industry is the second largest polluter of clean water globally.

Besides the damage it costs the environment, it also endangers human lives. Without being given basic human rights, those Bangladeshi workers previously mentioned are being subjected to extremely toxic chemicals and dangerous conditions that can have devastating impacts on their physical and mental health. This issue is heavily highlighted in The True Cost (I highly recommend giving that doc a watch!)

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What You Can Do

The information above is frankly, devastating. However, there are things ~woke~ consumers like you can do. There are many trendy, wonderful brands that do not subscribe to fast fashion. They instead use deadstock material (leftover fabrics that major companies do not use) to make clothes that are created by fairly treated, normally paid workers. A major brand doing this is called The Reformation, and their clothes are as cute, if not cuter than big brands like H&M and Zara.

The Reformation

Another brand putting in the work is called Christy Dawn, which specializes in bohemian dresses and good vibes.

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An additional option is to try to find more second-hand items to add to your wardrobe in order to not consume any more fast fashion products. Thrifting can be very engaging and Rutgers- New Brunswick students are in luck as a new second-hand store called By the By Vintage has just opened its doors in the downtown NB area!