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The Fast Fashion Revolution: Unmasking the Dark Side of Our Wardrobes

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

In the heart of our bustling cities, the revolution of the fashion industry unfolds at breakneck speed. What was once a seasonal affair, a few changes in our wardrobe to welcome a new season, has now transformed into a never-ending carousel of style. The allure of fast fashion, with its irresistible blend of affordability, accessibility, and ever-evolving trends, beckons consumers like a siren’s call. But as we enthusiastically embrace this whirlwind of constantly changing garments, a shadow lurks behind our desire for the perfect outfit. This shadow conceals a complex web of environmental destruction, human exploitation, and an overwhelming heap of waste.

Fast fashion brands, the Sheins and Zaras of the world, have redefined fashion rules. With their warp-speed production cycles and relentless marketing tactics, they’ve birthed a culture where buying is not an event but a daily routine. The promise of staying ahead of the latest trends, the thrill of low prices, and the convenience of instant gratification have shaped our closets into veritable treasure troves of fast fashion items. However, as the buying, discarding, and rebuying cycle continues, we must peel back the layers to reveal this fashion phenomenon’s environmental and social costs.

In this essay, we embark on a journey through the landscape of fast fashion. We’ll uncover the seductive appeal of this industry, dive headfirst into its detrimental impacts on our planet, explore the harsh realities faced by its labor force, and, finally, chart a course toward a more sustainable and responsible fashion future. It’s a story of transformation that beckons us to be mindful of our choices and demands that we, as consumers, participate in shaping a fashion world where beauty isn’t just skin deep but ethical and environmentally conscious.

Fashion trends are going faster than ever. With the growing population, the increase in people’s sense towards fashion, and the competition between companies, companies are directed towards producing faster and making their products cheaper. Their products are widely used by university and high school students who spend little money. The extensive use of social media has led people to believe that they need a more significant number of clothes than they require. Having to produce faster and make their products cheaper, companies set up manufacturing units in countries where labor laws could be more robust, and they underpay their workforce. Not only does this make the companies unethical, but it also damages the environment. Fast fashion harms the environment as most of the clothes bought get thrown away, and the production of clothes is toxic. In this essay, I am going to be explaining various reasons as to why fast fashion is bad. 

Companies mass produce their products, and their products change every few weeks. This also encourages their customers to keep coming back and buying their products. The fast fashion model entirely relies on the customers buying more clothes. Shein gained fame by being wholly online and having cheap clothes available at its customers’ doorsteps. Shein restocks their top-selling clothing items every one to two weeks. According to Rashmila Maiti on Earth.org, Fast fashion comprises 10 percent of the global carbon emissions, and 85 percent of all textiles are thrown away annually (Maiti 1). Washing clothes releases microplastics into the water that later go into our oceans. The microfibers released are as many as 50 billion plastic bottles yearly (Maiti 1). Companies have a lead time, which is the time it takes for the product to reach from the designer to the customers to purchase. The company Zara has a lead time of two weeks, Forever21 produces and delivers in six weeks, and H&M does it in eight weeks (Maiti 1). The ridiculous number of efforts these companies put into making their supply chains smaller and faster is hazardous to the environment. This also leads to the production of large amounts of waste.

Where do the large amounts of garments get thrown away? There are large shipments sent to Ghana. As reported by CBS, here is a fivefold increase in the number of clothes bought by Americans (CBS 1) that are barely worn seven times and thrown away. Many people assume that giving their clothes away to charity will help in getting the clothes reused. Still, the quality of the clothes could be better in reusing them, and they again end up in developing or underdeveloped countries. Whatever cannot be sold ends up in salvage markets, and the supply chain eventually gets so complicated that it is invisible to the public and the people involved in the supply chain (CBS 1). People also try to sell their clothes to thrift markets, but thrift stores can only sell some. The clothes that end up in Ghana are then bought by market traders who try to upcycle the clothes but can’t make a big difference because of the quality of the clothes. Forty percent of all the clothing sent to Ghana is in landfills (CBS 1). 

There is a vast amount of usage of non-renewable resources like water. The fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water (Maiti 2). It uses seven gallons of water to produce one shirt and around two thousand gallons to produce a pair of jeans (Maiti 2). Not only that, but the textile industry is also the second largest water polluter. The water used to dye the clothes ends up in the various water bodies. The water that was used has many harmful chemicals (Maiti 2). These chemicals are very toxic and can make the water unusable.

Many clothing brands make their clothes using polyester, nylon, and acrylic. These fibers can take thousands of years to biodegrade. Thirty-five percent of all ocean microplastics each year come from synthetic textiles like polyester (Maiti 2). The world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing each year. It is 400 percent more than what we consumed 20 years ago. An average American produces 82 pounds of textile waste each year. The production of clothes that contain leather requires large amounts of land, feed, and water to bring up the livestock. The process of tanning produces leather, and it is one of the most toxic processes in the fashion industry. The chemicals used to tan leather are non-biodegradable and always in water bodies. 

As mentioned before, companies get competitive and become unethical. Various reports show that the labor forces are usually underpaid, and their working conditions are hazardous to their health. Women between 18 and 24 make eighty percent of all apparel. There have been reports of forced labor and child labor. The need to produce faster has made human welfare secondary. In 2013, an eight-floor building collapsed, killing 1,134 workers and hurting more than 2,500 others (Maiti 2). This is heartbreaking. Companies go on to make billions while their labor forces suffer the consequences. 

I can go on as to why fashion is harmful and how the production of these clothes takes away a lot from our world, but how can we solve this? We can come together to bring an end to this. Slow fashion is the solution. We don’t need 40 pairs of pants when we can make do with seven. The excessive production, buying, and the faster supply chain would all become slower. The release of the large amounts of toxins in our water bodies would be reduced. There would be a lower use of our already depleting water source. The production could go down to the actual requirement of the public, respecting the environment, the animals, and us. The labor workforce could earn more and make a better living. When we boycott fast fashion, companies will be forced to do more research to put more into their business models to provide better quality, reuse the clothes produced, and maximize the lifetime of the clothes. We can buy from secondhand sellers to reuse the already existing clothes. Many fashion retailers offer opportunities to recycle used textiles. These are then used to make materials to produce new clothes, which can then be reused. We can buy from more ethical companies and buy less often. As famously said by Patsy Perry, “Less is always more.”


Maiti, Rashmila. Citing Sources: Fast Fashion and Its Environmental Impact. Earth.org, 2022.

CBS News. Citing sources: Fast fashion in the US is Fueling an Environmental Disaster in Ghana. www.cbsnews.com, 2021.

Mahi Mittal

U Mass Boston '12

I am a management major and an economics minor. I am from India and have been in the US for a year and a half. I enjoy writing about things I am passionate about and have a deep interest in understanding and reading about human behavior and psychology.