Fast Fashion: Cheap Clothes Come With a High Price

By Cindy (Binh) Nguyen
Layout & Design Editor

Fast fashion, a buzz phrase that refers to the quick-response production of clothing, has transformed the way people consume fashion. Fast fashion imitates current runway and celebrity trends, but sold at a much cheaper price.

Fast fashion companies such as H&M, Zara, Uniqlo have taken off the high street and online for the past few years. Clothes from these brands can be spotted all around the Metro campus as they are cheap, trendy and accessible.

But the low cost comes at a price. These “affordable” clothes are made from low- quality materials and are likely to degrade after just a few wears. Fast fashion speeds up trends and this shortens the life cycle of the products. This also can lead to consumers becoming increasingly addicted to shopping and accustomed to throwing out-of-season styles away.

Nearly 11 million tons of used textiles end up in the landfill every year, according to Textile and Garment Recycling Facts and Figures. Cheap materials, such as polyester or nylon, are non-biodegradable meaning clothes made from them might possibly stay buried for hundreds of years. Even natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk contribute
to air and groundwater pollution as they release the chemicals used in the dyeing and bleaching process.

Manuel Peréz, a sophomore at FDU, admits that it’s impossible for him to count the number of items he owns, but at the same time he can’t stop making purchases. “I know it’s really bad and I’m not even that into fashion,” Peréz said. “It’s just the convenience and the feeling that you need to have it all.”

Peréz, as well as many other FDU students, have no idea that their lifestyles impact not only the planet but also people who live thousands of miles away. From a societal standpoint, chemicals found in garments exert short-term and long- term health effects on people with close contact, including neurotoxicity, liver, kidney and lung disorders, cancer and so on.

Fast fashion brings about labor exploitation as well. The type of low-skilled, cheap labor that the supply chain requires are freely available in developing and underdeveloped countries where labor laws are not yet established or enforced. Factory workers, including children and pregnant women, are subject to extremely poor working conditions without adequate pay and protection. This amounts to modern-day slavery.

There is an array of alternatives to fast fashion. Miche Collins, a freshman at FDU, exclusively buys her clothes in vintage stores and online second-hand shopping sites, such as Depop. “The current rise and popularity of thrift stores definitely change
the fashion scene and help people be aware and cater to sustainable fashion,” Collins said.

Another FDU student, junior Demi Williams listed recycling and mindful purchasing as ways to inspire change as an individual. Williams said: “Personally, I think everyone should find a few pieces that really spark joy. Even if your dream clothes cost more money, it’s like investing in yourself and investing in the things that make you feel you.”




Via Creative Commons

Jeans, like those above, can contribute to groundwater pollution, due to the chemicals used in the indigo dying process.



This story is a part of The Equinox‘s participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration by members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in N.J.