The true cost of fast fashion


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By: Bella Love, Staff Editor

Fast fashion is quickly taking over every mall and shopping center in America, enticing customers with low prices, but these prices come at a cost. Fast fashion is when brands produce clothing at a low cost so that people will buy more of their product and rotate through clothing quickly. The low cost of the clothing may seem like a good thing, however, it has negative effects on the environment and the welfare of the people making the product.

Some examples of popular fast fashion brands are Forever21, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Zara and Charlotte Russe. These are staple brands in most teen’s wardrobes, however, not everyone knows what goes on behind the scenes when making these clothes. The cost of making these clothes has to be kept extremely low, and because of this, the factories that produce them often have to make sacrifices when it comes to insuring the safety of the workers. Back in 2013, there was a factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand workers. The factory collapse was a result of cracks in the building that were not fixed because the factory owners could not afford to fix them and still keep producing clothing at such a low cost.

Fast fashion also has had a terrible impact on the environment. There have been cases of rivers being dyed by the clothing dye runoff, harming the ecosystems. One of these cases is the Li River in China, which has been negatively affected by the fast fashion industry.

“Xiantang in China is home to the Li river – far from being a life source, it is a dead zone. Polluted by the garment industry which uses lead and mercury in the dye for jeans, the run off is washed into the river with little thought. The Li, known as the Pearl River, is a toxic swamp. Parts of it have turned blue and Greenpeace has called it ‘one of the worst polluted waterways in the world,'” says Pebble Magazine, a magazine that centers on eco-friendly news.

The deadly factory collapse that killed over a thousand people in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

While many teens contribute to this terrible industry that hurts so many people worldwide, there are many ways that they can shop sustainably instead. There are lots of companies that make sustainable and ethically-made clothing, like Reformation and Everlane. However, stores like this can be a little pricier and not every teen can afford the expensive price tag. A more budget-friendly option is American Apparel. While they are still a bit pricey, they are closer to an Urban Outfitters price point, as opposed to a higher end brand.

An easy step teens can incorporate into their shopping routine to help shop sustainably is the 30-time rule. The 30-time rule says that before buying an item of clothing, consider if it will be worn at least 30 times. If the answer is no, put it back on the rack. Shopping less is a key aspect in shopping sustainably, so instead of buying lots of cheaply-made clothing, think about buying a fewer better-made items.

Shopping at sustainable fashion stores is not in everyone’s price range, so a way to shop sustainably for less is shopping at vintage and secondhand stores. Some great options in the Bradenton area are Plato’s Closet, Sunshine Thrift and Goodwill.

There are lots of better alternatives to buying from fast fashion brands like Forever21. Photo Credit: The Independent.

There are also ways to shop secondhand clothing online, through apps and websites. A favorite of many teens is Depop, which sells a lot of trendier clothing. There are other options too, like Poshmark or Ebay. Ebay may seem like just a place where people sell their old furniture and other junk they do not need anymore, but there are actually some pretty great vintage and used clothing options on there.

Shopping sustainably may not be as easy as going to a Forever21 and buying cheaply-made clothing in bulk, but it is much better for the earth and for the people making clothing. At the end of the day, sustainably made fashion is better-made, will last longer and much more ethical.

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The true cost of fast fashion