What’s better than trendy, inexpensive clothes? From Forever 21, H&M, and Zara, the thought of cheap clothes is a glorious idea, until the reality behind the industry is exposed.
With the new location of Zara opening at Somerset Mall in Troy, MI, I cannot help but to feel excitement. However, my response to purchasing low-priced items is a feeling of guilty pleasure. It seems people are blindsided to the actuality of the fast fashion industry. The people who are aware tend to act low-key about it. Why do we continue to support these companies? It is simple. People want to buy popular, cheap clothes because of the easy accessibility to keep up with the trends.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a term used to describe retailers who provide quick, cheap clothes to the market and to maintain relevancy in contemporary fashion. This might sound like a reasonable idea, but process of sustaining these clothes into retailers will change a consumer’s perspective.
As it is more expensive to buy America-made products, well-known fast fashion companies buy their goods from popular garment exporters such as Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam. One of the most recent tragedy was in 2013 when the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh killed more than 1,100 people. The poor working conditions continue as workers receive low wages. These developing countries are supporting illegal child labor and unhealthy environments for laborers.
According to The Guardian, sponsored by Unicef, “The ILO [International Labor Organization] estimates that 170 million are engaged in child labor, with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond.”
While child labor continues to be common in poor countries, it is illegal in most countries including the United States. Unfortunately, American-based brands continue to support the illegal labor by manufacturing their products in poor countries for the cheaper way out.
Trends come and go… into the garbage
The fast fashion industry also destroys the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states, “84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went to either a landfill or an incinerator.”
While low-paid labor workers are sewing garments for American companies, those garments will go to waste as new trends will arrive and the old will become irrelevant.
As these issues continue to unfold and expose the true cost of companies’ products, it is difficult for companies to end this method of manufacturing. The problem with myself and others who know the truth of fast fashion, we are all hypocrites for educating people about these issues as we continue to support those retailers.
Working in retail, I have developed personal experience through being a stylist/sales associate at Evereve who carries premium denim. I have had numerous customers who bring the high-priced jeans to my attention. After explaining to customers the reasoning as I describe the denim being manufactured in the USA, as well as the high quality, I cannot help but feeling like a hypocrite as I also refuse to spend $200 on a pair of jeans.
While I continue to selfishly complain about my low-quality Zara top for which I purchased for $22, I will also continue to complain about the fast fashion industry. It is difficult to believe the industry will change their ways anytime soon. Trends constantly change and the truth will remain a shameful whisper.
Alberta Ferretti FW16 Zara’s 2016 velvet collection