Fast Fashion and Its Consequences / By: Maggie Tsyganova
In recent years, due to increased purchasing power, social media, and affordability, the fast fashion industry has grown tremendously. While it is currently valued at $30.58 billion (2021), it is projected to reach $39.84 billion in 2025 ( Hayes, 2022 ). Although fast fashion has become increasingly popular among American teenagers and makes clothes more affordable, there are serious ethical and environmental consequences to consider when it comes to purchasing it. Almost all American clothing manufacturing has been outsourced in recent decades, with companies taking advantage of lower wages and less safety regulation in foreign countries. For example, garment workers in Madagascar and Bangladesh earn only $54 and $63 dollars per month, which is only 61% and 66%, respectively, of the country’s monthly local living wage ( Lu, 2020 ). This leads to workers having to work unrealistic hours or seek other low-paying jobs. Additionally, due to profit incentives, many textile factories neglect worker safety issues. This was on full display in the Bangladesh Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when a facility disaster took the lives of more than a thousand workers ( International Labour Organization, 2023 ). As foreign garment workers are in dangerous situations with often little oversight, there is greater importance to recognizing where our clothing comes from. Oftentimes people are not aware of fast fashion’s negative effects on garment workers and the environment. Grace Von Lehman, a student at DePaul University, has a unique perspective on fast fashion because she grew up in an environmentally-conscious family and ran an Instagram account highlighting more sustainable clothing practices. Grace says that “consumer power only goes so far. It’s important to have conversations to learn about what we're using and where it comes from.” Additionally, Annie Wu, a student at Walter Payton College Prep, says, “the real problem is how fast fashion promotes overconsumption. It wouldn’t have that large of an environmental effect if its demand was lower. Since fast fashion is cheap, people continue to buy more and more of it and to keep on trend.” Shedding a light on companies and important sustainable lifestyle changes through social media or schools can be a potential solution. Those interested in learning more about fast fashion can learn more by reading Kelsey’s Timmerman’s book, “Where Am I Wearing?” , listening to the Unfiltered Fashion Talks podcast , or exploring the Fashion Revolution website . By learning more about the inner workings of fast fashion, consumers can be more aware of their purchase decisions and how this may be impacting the world around them. Even making one better purchasing decision and being open to learn about other choices can be a great first step!