Fast fashion is (Za)ful of problems

Raquel Rossi, Opinion Editor


We’ve all seen the ads around the internet advertising super trendy clothing at unbelievably low prices. Some companies that immediately come to mind might include Romwe, Zaful, Shein, and Wish, whose entire brands are built on selling clothing of subpar quality that looks trendy while being incredibly cheap. On paper, this seems like a great thing. After all, who wouldn’t rather pay less for something that will go out of style in a few months anyways?

But that question in itself exposes the issues tied to fast fashion. Fast fashion is a two-fold concept; not only do trends change faster than ever thanks to social media, but textile manufacturers are also able to make clothing at incredibly fast rates. 

The issue with this newfound speed is that in order to keep up with demand and produce faster, fast fashion companies tend to use unethical sources of labor (such as sweatshops and the outsourcing of labor to countries with less worker-protection laws) so that they can get the fastest possible production. For companies like Romwe and Zaful, the prices are low, but the money you spend at these stores is only supporting a company that is built on the unfair treatment and low pay of workers.

Beyond that, social media is causing fashion to move faster than ever, which causes companies like Romwe and Zaful to create cheap options of the trends that are circulating at any given time, all of the time. The companies constantly put out cheap but cute clothing that will last through whatever season it is in style. But the clothing items produced by these companies aren’t made to last; they are made to be in style for a short period of time.

 So what happens when people no longer want the clothes? Many people turn to simply throwing away their clothes, which results in clothing ending up in landfills and contributing to harmful chemical runoff in many places, especially in less developed countries.

Some of these clothes don’t even end up being worn. Since companies have no idea how long trends will last, to produce accordingly, they end up erring on the side of caution and usually produce more than is sold. Because many companies don’t want to donate these clothes as it will devalue their products and their company, they tend to put never-worn clothing in landfills as well.

 This is the most frightening aspect of fast fashion production: not only does this practice add to the aforementioned issue of chemical runoff, but the excess production in factories drastically increases CO₂ emissions and wastes textile materials that could have been used to produce a commodity with utility and function.

Now, in no way should this information make anyone panic. There are lots of alternatives that can be explored for everyone to try to reduce their carbon footprint, especially with clothing. 

One option, if you don’t have that much money to spare on clothes, is to buy a few items from Romwe or Wish that you know you will wear and get the best use out of them. This is not ideal, but as long as the items are used to their fullest and donated to a thrift store or shelter afterwards, the consumer can still be environmentally responsible.

 Another option is to buy from thrift stores. The items in thrift stores have already been produced, so by buying them and giving them a new life, you are reducing carbon emissions and are likely paying less than if you were to buy the item new. Especially with apps like Depop, Poshmark, and Thred-up, it’s more convenient than ever to thrift. Not only that, but the trends that are circulating are mostly vintage pieces! I have seen countless ads from Romwe trying to sell me little sweater vests that I could probably find at my local thrift store.

But on an even larger scale, in a culture of mass consumption and advertising, it’s easy to feel like we have to be buying something new all the time when that is not necessarily true. It’s better for your wallet, your conscience, and the environment to try to buy things as ethically as possible. So next time you see an ad for a super cheap and trendy article clothing, think of the real cost of supporting that practice before you buy it.