Opinion | Is Fast Fashion Considered Ethical?

Written By: Katherine Balbin, Andrea Vargas

 Fast fashion refers to how rapid clothes are manufactured. Companies mass produce cheap, low quality clothing that are quickly thrown out after minimal use. It allows for people to get access to trendy styles in an affordable way. New trends coming in and out everyday means that there is always a demand for more clothes and more waste to create.  The overconsumption of clothes and brands coming out with new styles everyday makes for a perfect storm. 

Many known brands contribute to fast fashion such as Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, PacSun, H&M, etc. However the main culprits are the online stores. Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Thing, Romwe and worst of all Shein. It has been reported that Shein uploads about 2,000 items everyday. 

The sheer abundance of clothes made daily allows for so much waste to be created. Fast fashion has a negative environmental impact. Trend cycles end so fast with micro-trends only lasting a couple months. Clothes no longer have a purpose and inevitably get thrown out. 

In Chile, there is a desert called Atacama. It is the driest desert in the world and a dumping ground for fast fashion. According to Aljerrza, 60,000 tons of clothes get dumped into the Atacama desert every year. With clothing taking hundreds of years to biodegrade, it produces pollution on land and in water. Additionally, manufacturing clothes contributes to global carbon emissions. 

Although the US is the number one consumer of fast fashion, it is not produced in the states. They are produced in Southeast Asian countries, relatively lower on the socioeconomic scale. Workers are placed in poorly maintained factories called sweatshops and not paid nearly enough. The poor working conditions can consist of poor ventilation, little space, and bad lighting, all while not being paid a livable wage. The majority of workers are young women, overworked and underpaid. It has been noted that Shein will pay a worker per item, exploiting thousands of workers with no guarantee of being paid appropriately. 

The only things fast fashion contributes to are environmental pollution, the exploitation of workers, and the already mass overconsumption of fashion. Rather than feeding into trends, consumers should consider if they are going to use the item regularly in their everyday wardrobe. Impulsive buying is not the answer. An alternative is thrifting, in person or online. Stores like Depop, Poshmark, Mercari will still have trendy clothing, just recycled. This is also an excellent outlet for a consumer’s unused clothing, as are donations to local charities. Not contributing to fast fashion helps the world and other people.

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