THE FATAL FLAWS OF FAST FASHION // Why Cheap Clothes Actually Cost More
If you’re like me, you LOVE a good bargain. The “more-is-more” philosophy was embraced by everyone I knew and advertising agencies thrived on this concept during the 1990’s when I grew up. Naturally, I developed the habit of buying more than I needed, especially if an item was on sale (thanks mom). But seriously, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel like they’ve won a prize when they can afford to buy an entire new wardrobe every week at places like Forever 21. Not to mention being able to buy a pair of leggings for $4 (that will inevitably fall apart after about 5 washes) so you just end up buying 20 pairs so they last a year. The concept of mass-producing poorly made garments and is alive and well. I decided to write this post to help myself and other better understand why this way of living is harmful to us, the environment and to our future.
There are so many problems that lie within this industry of overconsumption. Not only do companies like H&M, Forever 21, Top Shop and Zara perpetuate the demand for ever-changing affordable fashion, they also exploit + underpay workers and often use toxic materials since they’re much cheaper and still not highly regulated in the garment industry. Companies like Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 have been found using lead-contaminated shoes, belts and handbags above the legal amount well after legally agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products. Lead exposure builds up in bones, can be released during pregnancy (harming mother and child), has been linked to infertility in women and increases risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks + strokes.
With new styles delivered to these stores biweekly and sometimes even daily, the goal is to keep consumers constantly feeling off-trend and in need of new stuff. It’s all a little creepy when you think about it…not to mention how I felt when I found out the truth about TJMaxx and other outlet stores. The reality of outlet and discount stores like TJMaxx, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack is that their clothes aren’t designer quality at all. They make deals with brands who are willing to put their labels on cheaply made versions of the brand’s regular priced clothing in exchange for a portion of the profits. This means that fashionistas are being misled to believe they’re buying discounted or “out-of-season” merchandise but they’re really just getting lower quality items.
These lower quality items are produced in factories where companies underpay its employees and overwork them in poor conditions. These factories aren’t just happening in other countries, they’re right here. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated and recently found workers at a factory in the basement of a building in downtown Los Angeles for wages as low as $4.50 an hour. That’s well under the legal minimum wage in CA which is $10.00 per hour. HOW do they get away with this? The Labor Department can only hold companies responsible that directly employ workers. Retailers like Forever 21 hire manufacturers who underpay workers (and use child labor), relieving much of the legal responsibility to make factories aren’t underpaying worker or violating labor laws. These companies have been involved in countless wage theft lawsuits and show no hope of changing their blame-free business models.
Another unfortunate side effect of the fast fashion industry is an unsustainable system of cheap products made of cheap materials that are filling up landfills. Many of these garments are made with synthetic materials that will take years to break down naturally. More than 13 million tons of used textile WASTE is generated each year in the U.S., while only 15% of consumer used clothing is recycled. Meanwhile, nearly 100% of textiles CAN be recycled. With no hope of these brands slowing down, its up to us to decide whether or not we want to be apart of the fast fashion fiasco. How can we do our part? We can choose garments that are made sustainably, last longer and support companies who are fair in their business practices and choose to lower their environmental impacts. In other words, be conscious consumers! We’ve linked a few ethical fashion brands we love below, please comment and share if you loved this post!
ETHICAL FASHION BRANDS:
AMOUR VERT – American manufacturing, non-toxic dyes, sustainable fabrics, a zero-waste philosophy, and above all, enduring style. (15% OFF when you sign up for their email) For every tee purchased, they plant a tree!
FREEDOM OF ANIMALS – A sustainable and cruelty-free luxury bag line that uses high quality, luxurious fabrics and materials that are comprised of post-consumer polyurethane and organic cotton– processes strictly follow EPA guidelines, to ensure an eco-friendly product.
REFORMATION – Designs and manufactures the majority of their limited-edition collections in their factory in downtown Los Angeles– all other garments are produced by responsible manufacturing partners here in the U.S. or abroad using sustainable methods and materials.
UNITED BY BLUE – For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups.