What you need to know about fast fashion

Imagine: you are scrolling through your For You page when you come across a Shein clothing haul. There's a jumpsuit you are dying to snag - you saw one similar on a celeb last week - so you rush to the app to make the purchase. But how did Shein grab that style so quickly?

Shein is a fast fashion brand. You've probably heard the phrase "fast fashion" before, but you might not know what it means. Let's break it down.

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing that gets mass-produced at a high rate and is sold and shipped internationally. For most of history, producing clothing was incredibly expensive and, until as late as the early 1900s, was done at home. So the idea of cheap, easy clothes sounds pretty great on paper, but the reality of the situation can be much more threatening. 

Why is it problematic?

Fast fashion needs to be... well, fast. Manufacturers are trying to create the cheapest items at the quickest possible speed, and it is all at the cost sustainability and eco-friendly manufactuing. Toxic clothing dyes make the fast fashion industry the second largest water pollutant in the world. Cheap fabrics such as polyester are commonly used, despite the fact that polyester is made from fossil fuels, contributes to global warming and sheds ocean-polluting microfibers when washed. Even cotton requires insane amounts of water and pesticides.

In addition to the environmental impacts, fast fashion is a human rights issue. Because items are mass-produced so quickly, factory conditions are often harmful and unsafe. People are working packed together, in low light and often using dangerous chemicals that can damage their skin and lungs. Workers are often paid far below minimum wage and 85% of people working in the garment industry are womxn without access to education or resources.  11% of the world's children are working jobs that interfere with them going to school, and many are being taken advantage of in the fast fashion industry because they can't unionize and may be paid less than adult workers. 

What brands use fast fashion?

+ H&M


+ Forever 21

+ Victoria's Secret 

+ Urban Outfitters

+ And many more! Before shopping, always do your research to decide if the brand is worth your support. 

How should I thrift ethically?

A lot of sustainable and ethical brands are much pricier than their fast fashion counterparts, so thrift store and secondhand shopping is a great, affordable way to cut down on fast fashion and be environmentally conscious. Also, it can be a lot of fun! 

It's important to keep in mind that a lot of people rely on thrift stores for all of their clothing needs. To be a conscious thrift-store shopper, you should stay away from these items:



+undergarments (underwear, bras, socks etc)  

General rule of thumb: if an item is a necessity that you can afford to spend money on elsewhere, leave it for someone who can't. 

Which brands are sustainable and ethical?

+ Levi's

This denim brand uses 96% less water than other jean manufacturers.

+ Alternative Apparel

Vintage looks from recycled material? Yes, please!

+ Pact

This brand sells super comfy workout wear and pajamas from a company paying fair wages and ensuring safe and healthy working conditions.

+ Amour Vert

Check out this brand for adorable and trendy clothing dedicated to using only the most sustainable material. Plus, for every tee sold, a tree gets planted!


These are gorgeous, high-quality clothes, accessories and denim from a brand that focuses on fighting poverty and ensuring fair wages, especially for womxn.

+ Vera Bradley

The brand just released the new ReActive collection which makes bags out of recycled water bottles. Love!

+ Patagonia

Not only does Patagonia use only sustainable material, but they will fix and mend their items for you, making them last longer. Plus, they have Fair Trade Certified collections, meaning factories and working conditions are closely monitored.

+ Athleta

60% of their clothing is made from sustainable materials, and they are trying to push the amount to 80% this year.

The most sustainable and ethical thing you can do is buy less, even if it's from one of these brands. 

Reuse your clothes!

Just because something is no longer trendy doesn't mean you should throw it away. Embrace re-wearing outfits, mix and match or sew and alter your clothes to ensure they last beyond their "in-season" moment. The same goes for outgrowing clothes; rather than tossing them, donate to thrift stores, homeless shelters or younger family and friends who may be in need. Also, wear hand-me-downs! One of the best ways to be environmentally healthy with clothing is to buy as few clothes as possible, and thrift if you do. 

All GIFs via GIPHY



by Molly Greenwold | 9/3/2020