What happens to the clothes that go out of style in your wardrobe? Are they placed pushed back further into your closet never to be seen or heard from again?
Better yet, what happens to the pieces of clothing society and the fashion industry deem to be out of style or not on trend anymore. Do these fashion pieces get thrown in the donation pile and hauled off somewhere, now becoming someone else's problem and responsibility?
This process of buying and donating cheap clothing as it comes in and out of style is known as fast fashion. It is a cycle that people in society are participating in with their own clothes and it is simply because of a trend; however, not everyone knows what fast fashion is and the harmful effects it has on our environment.
Some of the biggest retailers that participate in buying and selling fast fashion are Forever 21, SheIn, H&M, Zara, and even Target. The list of retailers goes on and on. As a result, you as a customer mostly likely shop at one or more of these stores on a regular basis. A common question that arises once people hear who these retailers are that are participating in the culture of fast fashion is why. Why are retailers constantly creating clothes that have to be on-trend in order for people to buy?
There are multiple reasons why retailers are involved in fast fashion, but the simple and most obvious answer is money.
According to CNBC Market Media Money, the two retailers that dominated the fast fashion market in 2018 were Zara and H&M. It was reported that Inditex, one of the world's largest retailers and owner of Zara, made well over $3.9 billion in profit that year alone. It is safe to assume that with profits increasing each year, along with the demand for new trendy pieces for people's closets and wardrobes, other companies are taking note.
So what does this mean for other companies who are seeing how well Zara and H&M are doing for themselves? It means that more and more retailers are attempting to beat their own competition by creating cheaper and trendier clothes to target the most easily influenced audience: college students and young adults.
College students and young adults are the most easily influenced demographic when it comes to the dos and don’ts of the fashion trends in society. This can easily be seen through the fashion choices and trends within the community of college students and young adults and how these trends come about and fade out. The best example to demonstrate this cycle is social media. Whether it be Instagram or TikTok, social media plays a major role in how and when trends get started. When it comes to fashion trends, influencers or celebrities do play a major role in what college students and young adults find on-trend. This insight on what is popular or not helps retailers decide what or what not to sell to their audience, especially when it comes to their target audience.
For example, the celebrity shoe designer Amina Muaddi is currently making waves in the fashion industry for her different and unique shoes. Furthermore, due to the popularity and rise of demand for her shoes, they are sold out everywhere. But here the catch: her shoes run up to $1,150.00 at Saks Fifth Avenue. It is safe to say that Amina Muaddi shoes are expensive for everyday people, especially college students, to buy.
This is where fast fashion comes into play. Inexpensive retailers are going to notice this trend and then create their own version of the shoes at a lower, more affordable price. As of recently, this did happen. There is a dupe or similar-looking design of the shoe on the website EGO for only $29.99. Again, this is the perfect example of what a fast fashion trend currently looks like. However, most people do not know the dangers of buying into this trend of fast fashion.
Fast fashion is dangerous to not only college students but everyone in the world due to the amount of waste these retailers and the fashion industry create, the promotion of cheap labor, and the possibility of higher retailer stores stealing ideas from independent brands. According to the website Business Insider, the fashion industry produces over 10 percent of all humanity’s carbon emission, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastic. This is why over 500,000 tons of microfibers are found in the ocean each year. This is the amount of waste that keeps increasing each year.
To make things even worse, there is a notion that if a person donates clothes, they are helping the environment. Through this might be true, past fast fashion trend pieces are being donated but are not leaving the store. This overruns donation centers with fast fashion pieces nobody might want, forcing the centers to throw away these pieces.
In addition, fast fashion promotes the use of cheap labor, which is unfair and inhumane to those workers that have to work in those conditions. For example, these men, women, and sometimes even children are forced to work at low wages for long periods of time. This is a problem that has been made aware to the public throughout the years. However, some still do not have a full grasp of the problem of cheap labor. Fellow University of Kentucky Junior Maya Chenault agrees that not everyone understands how problematic this is. Chenault said, “Make fast fashion in an ethical way, then it would be better. Most fast fashion...exploits young children in sweatshops”. The exploitation of cheap labor, and labor laws in general, has a tendency to go unnoticed when it comes to the fast fashion industry.
Upcoming sophomore at the University of Kentucky Emily Richardson agrees that bigger corporations do not pay nor treat their own employees fairly when it comes to labor laws. Richardson said, “Big stores make way too much money, even though the quality of their clothes isn’t good, and a lot of the stores that participate in fast fashion don’t treat their workers right”.
However, there are a couple of ways one can avoid participating in the cycle of fast fashion, which is just as simple and affordable.
One step is to start buying from (and maybe even selling to) alternative places, like Facebook Marketplace, Plato's Closet, Poshmark, and other second-hand retailers of this nature. This way, a person can still buy trendy or stylish pieces without breaking the bank or even buying from retail stores that participate in the fast fashion trend.
Also, buying recycled or gently used clothing throughout one's own community cuts down on the number of clothes that are being donated and that might eventually go to a landfill. Plus, buying local helps the community as well.
Finally, researching other ways to avoid the trend of fast fashion is always a smart idea. There are more options for buying clothes than simply buying from second-hand places. For example, the YouTuber Kristen Leo created a video called “How To Shop Sustainably & Quit Fast Fashion!” In this video, Leo goes over some very important points and gives viewers ideas on how to stop buying fast fashion. Linked here.