Why Fast Fashion is Unethical

Grace Woznicki, Opinion Editor

The popularity of “fast fashion” has grown in recent years due to its prominence on apps including TikTok and Instagram. Hauls of dozens of pieces of clothing from brands such as Shein, Zaful, and Cupshe have continued to trend on Instagram reels and one-minute-long TikTok videos. With the impact of COVID on employment rates, lower income, and lessened hours for employees, many have found themselves searching for cheap alternatives to expenses that usually take a toll on their bank accounts.  

But there’s another cost at hand.  

Many items sold at a significantly discounted price have been mass-produced and are not made for sustainability. Whether the piece of clothing rips due to its cheap material or becomes out of fashion in a brief period, these items are thrown away, resulting in overflowing landfills and toxic carbon emissions.  

Textile offcuts in Bangladesh. (The Guardian)

According to the website TreeHugger, which focuses on “sustainability for all,” in 1960, on average, Americans bought less than 25 articles of clothing yearly, and 95% of the clothing that was purchased in the United States was made in the U.S. Now, with fast fashion making a recent rise in the nation, the average American typically buys 70 pieces of clothing per year. Still, only 2 percent of the items purchased in the U.S. were made in the nation.  

As a college student, I have contributed to the issue of fast fashion. For Halloween last year, I scrolled on Pinterest looking for costume ideas and found three different ideas that I thought would be perfect for each weekend night. But how could I afford to pay for each item for three costumes? Shein, of course! I ordered everything needed for three of my outfits for less than $30.  

After I wore them once, I found no use re-wearing angel wings or cat ears for any other occasion, so I threw them out and repeated them for many once-a-year events following. 

Fast fashion increases landfill waste, CO2 emissions, and pollution while encouraging unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment of factory workers. 

So, what are some alternatives that are better than fast fashion?  

  1. Thrifting: By buying used clothing, you can save money and ensure that the item is getting the most use possible.
  2. Think about buying for quality instead of quantity: By investing in items that may be more expensive but will last longer, you can get your money’s worth and the most use as possible.
  3. Invest in items that are not a “fad”: You might want to purchase a newly trending item that you saw on TikTok or Instagram, but keep in mind that it won’t stay popular forever and if you aren’t planning to use it in the long-term, consider investing in something that will maintain its usability. 
Pictured left are the conditions that workers must endure in fast fashion factories, and right is a picture of the result of a factory fire in Bangladesh in 2013 due to unsafe working conditions. (CodoGirl)