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Social Media’s Role in the Overconsumption of Fast Fashion

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 Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

I want to begin this article by saying that in no way am I trying to shame anyone for shopping fast fashion, but rather shedding light on an important issue that’s increasingly becoming worse.

Fast fashion is, by definition, the mass production of cheap clothing. The quality of said clothing is poor, usually meaning sheer, easy to tear and disposable. The majority of workers who make these clothes are overworked in dangerous environments and severely underpaid. These cheap clothes are usually made from materials like polyester, which is basically plastic. This means that these clothes that are only being worn for an outfit once or twice are thrown away to then take up to 200 years to fully decompose. Overall, the production and practicality of fast fashion is super unethical and mindless.

Shein is currently the most popular of these brands and a prime example of the fast-fashion empire. I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about Shein or seen a Tik Tok/YouTube haul of someone buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of similar apparel. These videos inspire viewers to buy in bulk and further the negative stigma around outfit repetition . Viewers are influenced to spend money on apparel because purchasing multiple articles of clothing for such a cheap price is easily justifiable. Due to social media, fashion cycles or micro trends are getting shorter and shorter every year. Trend cycles in the 20th century would last anywhere from 10-30 years. Now, these trends in the 21st century are lasting about three months.

In the 20th century, there was a limited exposure to trends, which were set by celebrities and neatly arranged in magazines, newspapers and broadcasts.. Now with the powerhouse that is social media, there’s more access to not just celebrities but other kinds of influencers. This allows viewers every day to keep up to date with what their favorite celebrity/influencer is wearing and continue that desire to be fashion-forward and accepted in society. With new content being posted daily by multiple different individuals with influence, the trends speed up, shortening the buying to disposing cycle. Additionally, this causes massive brands like Zara, H&M and Shein to add THOUSANDS of new clothing articles to their shops every WEEK.
Lower-income individuals like university students aren’t the ones who are upholding the empire of fast fashion. These individuals don’t have the disposable income to be throwing out/donating their clothes every few weeks or days, they’re more likely to cherish the items for longer periods of time. The dominance of the fast fashion industry is upheld by individuals who buy lots of fast fashion to wear once, dispose of the items in a week and make fun of others for not keeping up to date with the fast cycling of trends.

Fashion is a great creative outlet and an amazing way to express yourself. Yes, there are fashion designers that are working hard to design sustainable clothing for those who can afford it. However, those sustainable brands’ prices aren’t affordable for everyone and don’t always offer an inclusive size range. Plus, there are already tons of clothes sitting in piles ready to be worn/upcycled in thrift stores!

If you take away one thing from this article, let it be to be conscious of the situation, shop with intention and not overconsume. Becoming a more thoughtful consumer is key to reducing the climate crisis we’re facing. In this day and age with social media and our capitalist society, we are being molded into consumers. It’s our job to break free of the mindless consumption of such unethical practices like fast fashion. Upcycling, unsubscribing from newsletters, deleting fast fashion apps on phones, adapting aesthetics and thrifting are all great tools for being more mindful and intentional when thinking of fashion.

Maya Allen

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Maya is a third-year communications major and global studies minor. Her passions include traveling, helping others, staying active, cooking and Harry Styles.