The truth behind fast fashion

The saying goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” That cool hoodie or bodysuit on TikTok Shop was only eight dollars, so of course you had to buy it. Right?

Well, as unfortunate as it may be, that trendy, amazingly affordable clothing that seems to be perfect for college students has a dark side. Most, if not all, of your favorite places to buy clothing and accessories belong in a category called “fast fashion.”

Fast fashion is the business model of replicating recent catwalk or celebrity trends and mass-producing them at a low cost, bringing those designs to stores while demand is at its highest, according to CNN. The result is an endless stream of new clothing and styles selling for next to nothing, training consumers to hit “add to cart” without a second thought.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking about the super famous online shopping site called Shein. While Shein is perhaps the most popular fast fashion company, there are many more you may not even realize are part of this group: Temu, Zara, Zaful, Fashion Nova, Cider, Wish and Romwe are strictly online. While Victoria’s Secret, Hollister, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Old Navy, GAP and Forever 21 have physical locations.

However, stores like Urban Outfitters and Victoria’s Secret are far from cheap. Extremely low prices are only one side of fast fashion. How clothes are made and the speed with which they are distributed and disposed of is what puts the “fast” in fast fashion.

The Center for Biological Diversity states that the fast fashion business model is centered around exploiting human labor and resources to produce clothing at an alarmingly fast rate. The amount of merchandise being made from scratch and sold in as little as three days demands huge amounts of raw materials, which results in larger amounts of waste being dumped back into the environment.

To ensure that they still make a profit, fast fashion companies often sacrifice their garment workers’ wages. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 80 percent of these contractors were violating minimum wage and overtime laws, one in particular paying its employees $1.58 an hour to make clothing when minimum wage in that state was $15 an hour.

Money isn’t the only factor you need to consider when deciding to go shopping. Staying informed on where you buy clothes is just as important as the price. Rather than supporting companies that use these unsustainable methods and take advantage of their workers just to produce cheap clothing, buyers should purchase items from brands that are ethically sourced.

It is fun updating your closet with new trendy items. However, it is not fun when your new threads become threadbare just in time for the next trend. Spending the extra money on quality clothing that will last you several years and remain in style instead of the estimated seven to 10 wears fast fashion items will give you is a worthy investment.

Bring back timeless fashion with more classic looks. Some slacks and a nice coat can get you farther than you think, and they’ll never go out of style. Better yet, save your money and go through the clothes you already have and make new outfits. You may be bored of that pair of jeans or think that dress is so last year, but nice clothes are a blessing, and trends change way too quickly to take up so much of your time and money trying to keep up with them.

Barber is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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