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The Truth About Your Favourite Fashion Brands

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

Think about your cutest top, or the pair of jeans that fits you the best. Where did they come from? If the answer is Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Aritzia or any similar brands, chances are, it’s coming from a darker place than you think. 

Trust me, I love fashion as much as the next trend-following teenage girl, but it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the truth behind these fast-fashion brands. But what exactly IS fast fashion? Well, all of our favourite retailers tend to release new lines and pieces every week, in “microseasons,” as they say in the fashion industry. Considering there are 52 microseasons in a year, all these new pieces need to be manufactured quickly and efficiently. In order to do this, big retail stores often hire many people to work in what we know as “sweatshops” in third-world countries. 

We often find ourselves complaining about our retail or customer service jobs, but the truth is that our working conditions are pretty good compared to workers in sweatshops. They often suffer through long hours in unsafe conditions, and for very low wages. Additionally, a lot of them get injured on the job and receive no compensation, instead being forced back to work. And as if that wasn’t enough to digest, most of these workers are children, with almost 170 million involved in child labour in sweatshops, according to Unicef.

It is also important to consider the materials used along with the means of production. Brands like Forever 21 and J Crew have recently been busted for using harmful chemicals and toxic dyes in their clothing. These chemicals sit on your skin all day and end up sinking in through your pores. You wouldn’t take a bath in harmful chemicals and toxic dyes, so why would you allow them to poison your skin when you wear these clothes? 

Fast fashion is also incredibly bad for the planet. It takes a massive amount of energy, chemicals and water to create these pieces in such large numbers. The factories in which the collections are created also emit tons of greenhouse gases, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year, according to independent.co.uk. Aside from air pollution, fast fashion creates endless water pollution by dumping the aforementioned toxic chemicals into otherwise clean water. The industry also depletes non-renewable resources and produces mass amounts of textile waste in landfills. 

So, now that you’re aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion, you may be wondering what you can do. The good news is, there are several sustainable ways to get your fashion fix. One of my favourite sustainable ways to shop is by thrifting. Clothes in thrift stores often eventually end up in landfills, so giving used pieces a new chance at life by thrifting is a great way to grab some cute finds and save the environment. If thrifting isn’t your thing (it can be quite overwhelming to sift through all those racks), there are also sustainable clothing stores with all types of styles. Although the prices are a bit higher, it’s quite justifiable when you consider the pieces are made in a safe, healthy work environment, and with clean materials. Some examples of these stores are Everlane, Reformation and People Tree, all of which sell clothes made from clean materials, such as 100% cotton. 

Hopefully next time you find yourself looking for your next wardrobe staple, you consider the effects that come with supporting the fast fashion industry. Remember: fast fashion may be cute, but being mindful of others and the planet is cuter!

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Liv is a graduate student at Humber School for Writers. She enjoys writing poetry, editorials, and silly little stories.
This is the contributor account for Her Campus Western.