In 2019 15 million tons, in the U.S. alone, of textiles and clothing were discarded, halting their longevity resulting in the termination of both quality and non-quality clothing. Only fifteen percent of consumer clothing was recycled last year according to The Balance, Small Business, so where is the other 85% of clothing going?
Fast fashion is often overlooked when looking at the bigger climate change picture. Contributors like agriculture, transportation, and deforestation are commonly the center of attention.
Claire Nicholas, an assistant professor in the fashion and textiles college, graduated with a PH. D. from Princeton in 2014 that focused on Socio-cultural anthropology.
“Yeah, I don't think it is as visible in terms of a specific area of industry or you know, global kind of offender,” She explained.
Nicholas continued, “I don't think people realize the magnitude.”
Nicholas was right, fast fashion didn’t have a specific subcategory; the industry had to find its own place to fit in among the giant jig saw puzzle of climate change.
Brands like Boohoo, Fashion Nova, Charlotte Russe, H&M, Nasty Gal, Little Thing, Topshop and Shein are all of the more popular forms of fast fashion. The convenience and affordability of these stores is a major factor in their success. These brands sell similar products, that are manufactured for a small price, shipped from overseas, and sold here in the U.S. Not only do these brands harm the earth, but they also exploit women in 3rd world countries.
“Within the last couple of years companies have been exposed for using basically sweatshops and then paying their workers, you know, 60 cents a day or whatever.” Taylor Williams said.
Williams, a Fashion Design Student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, believes the circumstances for overseas workers would be a lot different if the manufacturers were here at home. Bringing the manufacturing of clothing to the States would rise the costs of production, and in turn raise the prices of clothing.
The constantly evolving trend style makes trying to move away from fast fashion seem daunting.
“There's this sense that to keep up, you need to be buying, like continuously.” Nicholas said.
This isn't the only tactic fast fashion companies use to keep consumers buying, they use celebrities and models as influencers to post on their behalf. This is an advertising strategy that helps reach millions of people through social media.
“But it's so frustrating as a consumer, especially, because I know some people just follow influencers so blindly and I know those influencers make enough money that they can afford to buy sustainable fashion and promote it,” Williams pleaded.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans shop online, and there are hundreds of sustainable clothing stores just a google search away. Many of which that produce their clothing right here in the States. Concerns about the price of these sustainable brands is where the problems arise. Is the price worth the guilt free product.
“This is kind of a debate that a lot of us have in the fashion college itself, because I think it's worth it because the clothes, you're going to buy, they're going to last you so much longer,” Williams said.
So what options are there for consumers who want to buy sustainable, but not pay the price? Thrifting from secondhand stores is a great option, it gives clothing another cycle of life. Buying clothing that is made with quality fabric also is a good option as well, as the longevity of the product makes the piece sustainable.
The price tag on fast fashion products may be cheap, but in reality, the price is subjective to what the seller values it at, don’t forget the miles it traveled, the underpaid labor it took and the weak longevity of the products themselves.