Due to the low prices attached to these items, you can usually bet that the workers who made them weren’t paid a fair wage.
Low cost and poor quality of materials also usually indicate poor environmental standards in production.
This means that fast fashion is bad for people and the planet, as well as generally being a bad investment if you want to wear something more than a few times.
Why are fast fashion brands so bad for the planet?
Fast fashion impacts the planet in many ways, from production to how a person disposes of an item.
Many inexpensive clothes are made from materials that have a detrimental effect on the natural environment.
This includes polyester, which is made from plastic, and cotton, which requires huge amounts of water to produce.
Some dyes used to color clothing are also toxic to the environment, while the production process used to make denim often involves intensive washing with huge amounts of water to create an aged look.
Due to the sheer scale of demand for fast fashion, vast tracts of land are also required to cultivate the necessary materials, leading to deforestation and land clearing of indigent people.
Tons of greenhouse gas emissions are then created when the garments are shipped and transported around the world to be sold.
When consumers wash these garments, they often release small amounts of plastic into the water, which is then washed into rivers and seas.
Billions of tons of clothing are also thrown away every year and are often sent to developing countries to be burned, releasing even more carbon emissions.
Which retailers are fast fashion brands?
Many big brands have been accused of churning out fast fashion, including H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Mango, Primark, Urban Outfitters and online giant Shein.
Many of these brands have claimed in recent years that their clothing is made and sourced sustainably. Many of these claims, however, have been met with skepticism and accusations of greenwashing by environmentalists.
How to spot a fast fashion brand?
If you want to know if your favorite brand is guilty of producing fast fashion, here are the telltale signs to watch out for:
- The brand stocks thousands of different items that are regularly changed or updated
- There is an extremely short delay between a fashion item that appears on a catwalk or is worn by a celebrity and a similar item that is stocked by the brand
- The garment looks like it’s made of a cheap material like polyester
- Clothes are made overseas in countries with poor rights and working conditions
- The clothes are sold at very low prices
In general, you should always criticize any claim by a brand that their clothes are sustainably made.
The ethical clothing site Good On You offers a tool for finding brands and checking their environmental credentials that can be handy.
Where can I find sustainable clothing?
In general, the most durable clothes you can buy aren’t clothes at all.
This means that you have to think very carefully about whether you really need to buy an item of clothing, because buying any new item has a carbon footprint.
If you have an event coming up, you can ask a friend if you can borrow their clothes. Alternatively, you could consider renting an outfit instead.
If you must buy, always try to buy used. That means searching charity stores or using apps like Depop and Vinted to buy pre-loved items.
Sometimes buying new is necessary. In this case, you should always look for brands with real ethical references and buy clothes that you are likely to wear for a very long time.
The Big Issue Shop, for example, stocks ethical retailers. Good On You also has a number of blogs detailing which clothing retailers have the best ethical credentials.