5 Truths of Fast Fashion and Why to Avoid It

While the ability to browse, order, and receive any style of clothing from around the world seemingly in days feels like an amazing feat of modern technology. The truth is, there is a lot of hidden darkness within online commerce.

department store clothing with various articles of clothes

This is no more evident than in the fashion industry, especially where clothing is made in large quantities, ready to sell, and then readily thrown into landfills when it goes out of season or its poor construction leaves consumers unsatisfied.

Fast Fashion refers to lines of clothing produced quickly with little variation except in color or size. These garments are usually produced at high volumes with materials of questionable quality, which means they can be produced cheaply and sold for large profits.

Because of its overall affordability, fast fashion has been a bittersweet blessing for people who otherwise cannot afford new clothing regularly. What many people don’t know is that in the production of these garments, several negative consequences are being felt. From the environment to the safety of factory workers, fast fashion is doing far more harm than good.

1. It Hurts the Environment
When it comes to waste in the fast fashion industry, the number of garments ending up in landfills is only a small part of the negative repercussions. Fast fashion is also notably harmful in terms of excessive water use, negligent chemical usage and disposal, and its contribution to global carbon emissions — with nearly 10% of the world’s emissions cited from clothing production.

Not only are fabric garments contributing to this waste, but “fast fashion jewelry” is also a huge factor. Although these inexpensive “costume jewelry” accessories can be found both online and in-store, they fall apart quickly due to their rushed production, discolor the skin, and clog up landfills alongside their fabric counterparts. These accessories are also included within the ethical dilemmas that come with cheaply made jewelry and the sourcing of the stones they include.

Because of such a high propensity for waste when cheaply-made products break or fall apart, consumers need to keep in mind how investing in high-quality products, especially high-quality, durable jewelry, will ultimately keep more defective products out of landfills in the long run.

2. Lack of Worker Safety and Rights
Due to the high demand and rushed output of such a large volume of clothing, the factories producing fast fashion products are run on low wages, poor conditions, and unprecedented expectations placed on the workers more often than not. This leads to excessive injury, exhaustion, and overall, the baseline exploitation of vulnerable workers.

There are many reasons ethically produced clothing costs more for the consumer, and these reasons are not arbitrary. For one, truly ethical clothing manufacturers pay workers a fair wage, put in the effort to find and work with equally ethical suppliers of materials, and don’t value production rate over quality.

Most ethical clothing brands are also pro-sustainability and strive to leave as little a footprint as possible when crafting their clothing lines. As discussed previously, this attention to the environment is hardly a concern for fast fashion manufacturers in comparison.

3. Small Business Owners Can’t Keep Up
One aspect of fast fashion that many people may not consider is the sweeping negative effect on small business owners, especially those without traditional brick-and-mortar stores or large marketing budgets.

One of the industries feeling the hit of fast fashion and related jewelry is the wedding industry, where people are constantly searching for ways to save money on their big day. Because of this, unethical companies creating cheap, poorly-made products are likely to pop up and snag unsuspecting consumers without warning.

People think they’re saving money by choosing a less expensive suit, dress, or ring, when in reality, they may end up paying more in the long term as they replace broken items and tailor special attire due to failed expectations.

Consumers need to consider the items they want to invest real money in, and then research where they’re making their purchases. For example, tungsten wedding rings are more likely to last than a cheaper metal ring that is gold-plated and sold online, which will tarnish, discolor the skin, bend, or even break entirely.

When it comes to purchasing quality items that last, relying on the fast fashion industry is never going to be a safe bet.

4. Little Oversight For Quality and Consumer Safety
To keep prices inexpensive for consumers despite the demand for production remaining high, most fast fashion incorporations rely on inexpensive manufacturing processes. This includes low-quality materials, avoiding safety regulations that might take time away from production, and even selling products that a company knows are potentially harmful.

Specifically, some fast fashion lines and manufacturers are known to spray their clothing with chemicals to deter wrinkles and make an item water-resistant. However, these same chemicals can, over time, lead to health problems in consumers including respiratory issues, skin irritation, and other more serious issues.

Due to the rampant growth of inexpensive jewelry, many couples may even fall for fake engagement ring scams online, where the rings are made with false diamonds, poor quality metals, or worse. Naturally, to best avoid these types of scams, couples need to focus on purchasing their rings from reliable sources that ensure quality and longevity.

Not only does consistent low quality lead to problems with health safety, but it also leads to wasted money and product when garments don’t hold up, develop holes, or tear easily. When considering the speed at which garments are being made and all the ways to cut costs, it’s easy to understand why so many products within fast fashion are so poorly constructed.

5. Lack of Transparency
On top of producing low-quality products, ignoring health and safety concerns, and causing harm to the environment on a grand scale, fast fashion suffers from a huge transparency problem.

Understandably, many manufacturing companies don’t want it to be widely known how they source their products and from where. When it comes to discussing the conditions of their factory production, workers’ rights, workers’ pay, and other details of interest as well, many companies either ignore the question or spread false promises to improve.

When purchasing products, especially online and especially items meant to last a long time, it’s important for consumers to not only do their research, such as by referring to Fashion Transparency Indexes, but also to be aware of where their purchased products are being sourced from.

If consumers focus on small businesses and only buy from companies who can prove their ethical practices, fast fashion may soon lose its power on the market or, at least, be held responsible for the harm it’s causing.