The ‘fast fashion’ craze leads to unintended negative consequences


Richter Frank-Jurgen

Kenneth Shein, CEO of Shein, at Horasis Asia Meeting

Fast Fashion is not just cheap clothing to buy to keep up with the trends, it is a catastrophe that is wrecking the environment and is the cause of mistreatment to employees around the world. Climate change and human lives outweigh the unnecessary demand to keep up with trends.

As technology advances, the exposure to celebrities through entertainment increases, creating more accessibility for observers to see the trends shift. According to Investopedia, the changing of past rarity of shopping sprees and the importance of single articles of clothing began to shift in the 1990s. From then on, shopping became more frequent and a larger aspect of entertainment. This shift introduced ‘fast fashion’ where consumers searched for the trends sported by celebrities at the lowest cost possible.

The draw to fast fashion brands is mainly the cheap prices. These desirable prices are not simply a generous offer from brands, but an opportunity to profit based on questionable business strategies. According to Green America explains, “Fast fashion brands don’t touch production directly; instead, they outsource production to supplier firms in developing countries known as Tier 1 companies. These Tier 1 companies then subcontract production to manufacturing companies, or suppliers, that are not officially authorized by or affiliated with the fast fashion brands that carried out the initial outsourcing. Without authorization or affiliation, fast fashion brands carry no legal obligation to ensure decent working conditions in the bottom tiers of their production network. And because unauthorized subcontractors are unregistered, they operate without government regulation and oversight, resulting in deteriorating work facilities where worker abuse runs rampant.”

Not only does fast fashion promote poor business practices, but employees are also heavily mistreated in the process. In a piece by the Clean Clothes Campaign, they describe an incident in Bangladesh 2013, claiming cracks were discovered in a popular business center called the Rana Plaza. Most businesses closed soon after the discovered structural flaws, but the garment factory owners refused to close and ordered employees to work the next day. The building ultimately collapsed the next day, resulting in 1,134 casualties and 2,600 injuries.

“I was shocked to learn about how these brands are profiting off of cheap labor and prices. Not enough people are aware of this,” senior Alana Hutton said.

To add to the list, fast fashion negatively impacts the environment. According to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, the production of cheap clothing leads to waste of water, an increase in presence of plastic microfibers in oceans, over production of clothing, and the usage of viscose: a cheaper and environmentally threatening replacement for cotton.

“My current attempts to reduce my carbon footprint include using a water bottle, reusable straws, and grocery bags. Never did the stores that I shop at or the material of my clothing cross my mind as something I need to consider in the future to be more environmentally friendly,” senior Tyra Pranger said.

Fast fashion has led to accumulating consequences for hard-working employees and Earth’s well-being, while also promoting unethical business strategies. The consumers can first-hand put an end to the profits resulting from fast fashion. As shoppers, pay attention to what fabrics are being used in the clothing purchased, and the practices of the brands supported.