The True Cost of Fast Fashion

By Mirabella Booth


Gone are the days where people would buy a shirt and wear it for years. The average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2019 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long. What is the cause of this sudden rise in the ownership of apparel? Fast Fashion.

The premise of “fast fashion” provides clothes cheaply and quickly to consumers through shorter fashion cycles. Some of the most popular clothing brands among young adults follow this business model, including Forever 21, Guess?, H&M, Gap Inc., Fashion Nova, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Zara, etc. This model, fast fashion, negatively impacts people and the planet’s resources.

It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person’s drinking needs for two-and-a-half years. Making a pair of jeans produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles. This will be detrimental to our environment. Not to mention, the copious amounts of waste produced as a result of fast fashion. These fast fashion brands often use cheap, non-biodegradable materials. Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.

Aside from the negative environmental impacts, the production of fast fashion is a humanity issue. A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor in the fast fashion industry. These workers’ pay doesn’t even come close to what is required to afford basic amenities like food and water.

Fast fashion is detrimental to our environment and humanity, but what can we do about it? We should aim for our wardrobes to be more quality rather than quantity. Owning more garments of quality will limit the mass production of cheap clothing and inhumane treatment of workers. Purchasing clothing from thrift stores would also have this same effect. While you may feel like you making changes would be insignificant, this will hopefully start a conversation within these brands regarding their unethical practices.