The Ethics of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is continuously detrimental to the public, with its encouraging views of consumerism and wastefulness.

Fast fashion fuels environmental harm through the waste it encourages.


Fast fashion fuels environmental harm through the waste it encourages.

Roya Ghahreman, Columnist

Fast fashion can be found everywhere as a widely embraced idea among many popular retail stores. Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and H&M are popular stores that partake in fast fashion. At first glance, one may think highly of this way of doing things; after all, changing clothes out constantly to fit the different trends that come and go over the course of a week gives the average shopper more variety and choice. Don’t be fooled by the constantly changing selection of items. Fast fashion does more harm than it will ever do good, and hurts both the consumers and the producers of the goods by damaging the environment and encouraging a rampant throw-away mentality.

According to Investopedia, a study done on the process of creating and manufacturing clothing at the rates fast fashion demands, the end result of such things is worsening the conditions of our water sources and air conditions. It takes 3781 liters of water to make one pair of jeans. 2 billion pairs of jeans are made per year. These high numbers contribute to over 20 percent of the wastewater of the world, which ends up being a key factor in the reasons behind many countries’ terrible regulations for water disposal. On top of that, according to Investopedia, the fashion industry contributes to more than 10 percent of global carbon emissions. In addition, fast fashion company workers undergo horrible working conditions and are often severely underpaid and exposed to toxic chemicals in their many hours of work.

Based on research by Investopedia, the throw-away mentality is something that has been present in our society for about two decades now, ever since fast fashion began to become widespread in the early 2000s. It not only hurts the people working in poor conditions to produce low-quality clothing at such a fast rate, but it is less beneficial for the consumer too. With the public continuously buying and getting rid of clothing so frequently and then buying more in an endless cycle, the importance of quality and sustainability are lost. Clothes being produced so quickly comes at a cost, with the materials often being cheaper and less durable than they would be normally so that of course, the shopper will be unsatisfied with the quality of the items and replace them with new ones, as goes the discontent and tiresome nature of a rampant consumer mindset.

While the reality of the manufacturers and shops today might seem bleak, there are still some solutions available to us as an alternative to the wastefulness of fast fashion. By supporting smaller businesses and shops that value customer satisfaction and quality, you are giving money and time to a business that does not support the questionable nature of fast fashion. At the same time, customers receive a higher level of satisfaction for the high quality and more durable items you are purchasing. All it takes is some simple research to investigate what different brands believe and whether or not they are eco-friendly in their sourcing and manufacturing of clothing. According to Investopedia, there is also the concept of slow fashion, introduced by sustainability consultant Kate Fletcher in 2008. Slow fashion focuses on eco-friendly manufacturing and values quality over quantity in its production, utilizing reusable materials and recycled packaging. There are many simple ways to support sustainable and healthy manufacturing processes, most of which simply takes a moment of research to understand before the average shopper can start making more informed and educated decisions when purchasing clothing.

Overall, fast fashion hurts everyone involved. While constantly encouraging instant gratification of the shopper, it neglects the needs of the planet and the workers involved in the damaging system of unchecked consumerism. In order to help our planet and be able to get more quality clothing, we all need to be able to make more informed shopping decisions in order to live in a better, healthier world and shift our perspective on what being stylish really means: being eco-friendly while still looking fabulous.