Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Quick consequences of fast fashion

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Nicolette Baker

Trends pulled straight from influencers’ Instagrams that are easily available and inexpensive? It’s a college student’s retail dream. As bankrupt Charlotte Russe leaves West Park Mall, local shoppers are forced to turn to online stores to satisfy their fashion needs where websites such as Forever21’s greet visitors with a blinking invitation: “5,000 Items Under $5!” If you’re like me, you calculate the items to qualify for free shipping before giving it a second thought. “Fast-fashion” retailers such as Forever21, Charlotte Russe and H&M pull customers in with these promises of fashion-forward apparel and down-to-earth prices. Cloud nine, huh? Not so much.

To break it down: fashion retailers traditionally work on a seasonal schedule. This includes five to six clothing line releases correlating to the weather season. Fast fashion recently entered the scene with a new number of “seasons”: 52. With new releases nearly every week, companies streamline the designer-to-manufacturing-to-marketing-to-retail process, shortening steps and working on an abbreviated timetable. Quick production ensures quick trends, forcing consumers to purchase more and more to be a “trendsetter.” It’s an ethical dilemma that’s sneakily wrecking our planet and lifestyles.

Snapping up sales unnecessarily can quickly trade contentment for materialism and experiences for hot new deals. Scouring sale racks at Forever21 and finding a showstopping top for $3.99 surges adrenaline levels. It’s easy to associate that feeling with happiness, and consumers might soon find themselves seeking cheap frills at H&M over meaningful experiences with family and friends.

But it is cheap — that means consumers are paying less overall for apparel, right? Not exactly. Enticing sales and reduced prices can convince consumers to purchase more than they actually need. Inherently, low prices aren’t the problem — they’re great while navigating the pricey world of fashion. The issue is the excessive, fast fashion-induced need to shop. Fast fashion thrives on quantity over quality, which can lead to harmful consumerism and a strain on our planet. A crop top that costs less than a venti Starbucks latte is easily disposable. That adorable off-the-shoulder ruffle top you saw at Forever21? Love at first sight. After wearing it twice, the hem unraveled and the shirt found itself at the bottom of the trash bin. From there, it traveled to a landfill among 10.5 million tons of rejected fashion items. Reread that number; it’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s last reported estimation of apparel tossed in landfills annually. As the EPA has not yet released 2019 data, that number is expected to rise. Mother Nature isn’t having it, folks. And, with such low prices, it also begs the question: what are the clothing manufacturing workers being paid?

Enter: the alternate movement of sustainability. For anyone who’s seen Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” it’s not a new concept. Simply put: if an item “sparks joy,” keep it. If not? Donate it. This philosophy of valuing items can be applied to purchasing clothing at fashion retailers as well. Additionally, “thrifting” is a different kind of fashion trend popping up among millennials and younger teens. Individuals visit consignment stores — such as Plato’s Closet — and competitively search for unique finds to add to their closets. A quick search on YouTube also yields countless videos of innovators transforming these thrifted pieces into updated styles. By flipping the connotation of thrifting, these teens are promoting positive use of resources and destigmatizing shopping at second-hand stores. This challenges the fast fashion rhetoric and could ultimately lead to fast fashion, as we know it, dissipating.

The bottom line is mindfulness. This isn’t calling for a ban on fast fashion or boycott of Forever21, but simply a better awareness — by both companies and consumers — of how quickly this might be impacting our world. Need a little “retail therapy” in the name of self-care? Shop on. But don’t forget to save a little TLC for our planet, too.