The fault in our fabrics

Fast fashions’ far reaching effects on the planet

Sumi Rao, Copy Editor

Trendy, stylish clothing and affordable prices can lead to the world of fast fashion. Customers can have the ideal combination of both; however, according to Lifehack and Career Addict, the low prices customers fawn over are only made possible by the sacrifices the environment and oversea workers must make. 

Fast fashion seeks to gain the most amount of profit possible and satisfy consumer demand for trendy clothing. Retailers who engage in fast fashion policies will release new items in their stores as soon as pieces make their appearance on catwalks and runways. These designs are sold cheaply, yet clothing companies are able to profit off of such low prices by sacrificing ethical working conditions and sustainability. 

“Fast fashion is convenient for most because it is efficient in a way. However, it produces great waste and harms the environment,” junior Eman Tuku said. “Additionally, I believe workers should be paid more than their current amount because of their limited time and huge workload.”

According to Lifehack, in 2012, clothing-production factory workers suffered from a devastating warehouse fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 117 workers and injuring 200. The following year, the Rana Plaza Building, also in Bangladesh, collapsed and killed nearly 1,200 workers. Both events were due to faulty wiring, along with poor and crowded working stations that was made possible from a lack of priority towards oversea production and manufacturing sites. 

“I believe that fast fashion is a disgrace, even if it reduces costs and speeds up production time,” Tuku said. “Also, children are being used as workers in fast fashion which is unethical and inhumane.”

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” reveals even though U.S. manufacturing laws strictly regulate unethical production decisions, most clothing companies will move the production process to underdeveloped countries due to cheaper costs and less interference. These businesses are able to take advantage of the impoverished working class who are desperate for a job, exploit the region’s natural resources and go lax on the production standards to mass-produce garments and accessories at spitfire speed. 

“Fast fashion is such an unjust concept,” junior Arjun Rajan said. “Companies sell these clothes [at a] cheap [price], [while] the people making them get no profit, clothing companies like SHIEN and H&M also use [child labor] which is extremely unethical.”

According to Career Addict, big brand companies, including SHIEN and H&M, encourage child labor practices soley to gain profit by explotation. Child labor, also mentioned in Career Addict, is similar and can be compared to slave labor because children won’t get paid for the work they are doing. For large businesses, despite an ethical violation, child labor provides a connection between a large profit and less money spent on production sites or manufacturing.

“Many companies like SHIEN sell [their clothing] [for] $5 for a t-shirt or $5 for a pair of pants because the items being produced are so [cheaply made],” Rajan said. 

Chains like H&M and Zara are able to release new products within a mere two weeks. According to Lifehack and The Good Trade, fiber production consumes 145 million tons of coal, one to three trillion gallons of water and accounts for approximately 11 million tons of waste in the U.S. alone. On top of that, the risk of clothing containing dangerous amounts of lead can be very hazardous to both the producer and consumers.

A plausible explanation for why fast fashion continues to skyrocket in profit, despite the environmental and humanitarian violations associated, could be because teens and young adults who normally don’t work full-time jobs are lured in by the attractively low prices marketed on these cheap yet fashionable products. 

As a result of the low cost of production, consumers are able to buy more for less, thus bringing in more revenue for fast fashion companies and less for the workers. 

“I think the [workers] should be paid way more for what they are doing because they are putting in hours of labor for clothing and only getting paid 34 cents an hour which is way below minimum wage,” Rajan said. “They also probably only get paid this much because they live in poverty-ridden countries so they need whatever they can get.” 

According to Fast Company, fast fashion production workers in Bangladesh, make close to 28 taka an hour which is the U.S equivalent to 33 cents. In Cambodia and India, workers will make anywhere between a U.S equivalent of 58-85 cents per hour. 

 “I have bought from fast fashion stores such as SHEIN, ROMWE, Zara, and Forever21 Before I knew of the harms of fast fashion,” Tuku said. “Now that I am educated, I prefer to shop from small handmade businesses on Instagram like Oweo, or from [sustainable] businesses like Levi’s and Patagonia.”