As the weather warms up, people are likely to update their wardrobes for the spring and summer seasons. For an affordable wardrobe update, many college students turn to clothing websites like SHEIN, one of many fast fashion brands to keep up with seasonal trends. Simply put, fast fashion refers to brands that produce inferior, non-durable clothing at a fast pace to keep up with ever-changing trends. At these clothing stores, customers can find a complete outfit for under $30.
Vox writer Terry Nguyen writes in his article: “SHEIN is the future of fast fashion. Is that a good thing? A shopper can search for tops under $5.99, dresses under $9.99, and clearance items under $5. The wardrobe possibilities seem endless.” Yet affordability and on-trend clothing notwithstanding, it’s not time to ditch fast fashion and shop sustainably.
As fashion trends are constantly changing, brands are relentlessly competing with each other to produce the latest trends fastest, resulting in the fast fashion industry we know today. These “trendy” products are often made from very cheap materials that likely spend more time rotting in a landfill than hanging in our closets. While these pieces quickly become unwearable, both literally and fashionably, they take years to deteriorate, causing significant damage to our environment.
Over the past few years, SHEIN has quickly become one of the most popular online-only shopping sites, releasing huge new drops of trendy clothes every week and wooing people with their incredibly low prices. According to the Impakter article Fast Fashion’s Detrimental Effect on the Environment, it is estimated that the fashion industry is responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, “Total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production, at 1.2 billion tons per year, are higher than those from all international flights and shipping combined.”
Social media was a direct culprit in funding the idea of fast fashion. Instagram in particular has made it taboo to wear the same outfit twice in photos, thereby promoting excessive consumption. Fashion hauls are common on TikTok and YouTube — where one person showcases and reviews a large number of items. But young viewers are unaware of the dangers of fast fashion, as these excessive carries of big-name influencers and celebrities are changing the way people value clothes.
The Atlantic Author Rachel Monroe explains: “Young people, and young women in particular, felt an unspoken obligation not to repeat an #outfitoftheday; According to a 2017 survey, 41 percent of women ages 18 to 25 felt pressured to wear a different outfit every time they went out.” Additionally, the affordability of fast fashion clothing speaks to teens and college students, who often have minimum-wage jobs, and the sad truth is that clothing is trending for both and sustainable tends to be more expensive.
Faced with the dilemma of keeping up with the latest trends and avoiding wearing the same outfit twice, SHEIN and other fast fashion brands seem like a great way to get more bang for your buck, but what about quality over quantity happened?
The problems of fast fashion don’t stop at poor quality and environmental pollution. From child labor law violations to stolen designs, companies like SHEIN need to be stopped. A 2018 US Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor, particularly in the fashion industry, in countries such as Argentina, the Philippines and Vietnam. Brands like SHEIN lack transparency about their production and supply chain, which further raises suspicions about their practices.
It’s up to consumers to boycott fast fashion. While that may be challenging, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t keep up with trends over the long term. Instead of turning to fast-fashion retailers, try thrift for an equally affordable shopping experience. Los Angeles is a great place to save and find trendy new and used clothes. There are also online thrift stores like ThredUp that make for a convenient experience. Support small artists and local businesses and break the taboo of “outfit repetition” by wearing the same outfit twice. There’s no shame in wearing an outfit twice, especially when you can jazz it up with a few accessories.
While social media has brainwashed society into thinking that more is better, there’s no pride in being wasteful. Ultimately, the trendy and cheap clothes that the fast fashion industry produces are not enough to justify the immense damage they are doing to our society. So if you want to transform your closet, first change your attitude towards fashion.