Fast Fashion: Good or Bad

Many fashion fanatics across the internet are in a constant debate: does not shopping ethically make you a bad person? On the one hand, ethically resourceful fashion is more expensive and is more unattainable to those who do not have a lot of disposable income. On the other hand, fast fashion is worse for the environment and uses child labor, but is much more attainable to the average person. Is there a middle ground?

Fast fashion is defined as mass-produced inexpensive clothing in response to the latest trends. A couple of the most popular fast fashion sites right now are Shein and Romwe. What most people do not realize is brands like these are not the only type of fast fashion. 

“I know Shein is a sweatshop. You can get a necklace for a dollar,” Madeline Tew (‘22) said. 

People have different opinions about getting cheap clothing and accessories, but it is more than the old saying “you get what you pay for.”

“It’s bad that the person who made it is barely getting paid,” Camryn Bogart (‘23) said. “But it’s not fair to get mad at someone for not shopping ethically if they didn’t know the brand uses child labor.” Brands like Nike and Forever 21 utilize sweatshops and child labor. A lot of times, the people that are wearing the popular brands are also bashing those who shop at Shein, not knowing that they are both unethical. Nike was accused of verbal and physical abuse to the workers in their sweatshops. It turns out the workers were working 60 hours a week and were very underpaid. 

Oftentimes we don’t think about the fact that children are making these items for almost nothing.

“We have little kids only making a penny for their work,” Julia White (‘21) said. “I would never support child labor, but a lot of popular brands use it, and a lot of more sustainable brands are expensive.”

One reason that stores deemed unethical should not be completely demonized is their options for those who are plus-size or are low income. Brands like Shein produce very trendy clothing for very cheap prices. Most of the time, trendy styles are not offered in plus sizes. Shopping at the cheapest sites like that may be their only chance to get clothes that they feel comfortable and confident in. The same goes for those who do not have a lot of money to spend on clothes. 

Understanding this, it is acceptable to get a few items from Shein every once in a while. It is very popular and has trendy clothing for cheap. What many say is not okay is one spending $600 on Shein at once, knowing they have enough money to shop somewhere else. The truth is that buying $600 worth of clothes from fast fashion sites such as Shein ends up not being worth it. Being so cheap, the quality of the clothing is usually pretty poor. 

“I have personally shopped at Shein. They’re cute, cheap clothes, but they’re not good quality,” White said.

 If you know you have money to spend on clothes, it would probably be better to buy from other trendy stores and buy clothes that will last a while.

Some problems arise with attempting to shop ethically. One way I have seen to shop ethically is to go thrift shopping because they have an endless supply of clothes through donations, and the money spent on the clothes does not go to the corporations that use child labor. The problem with this is if everyone buys all of the trendy clothing from the thrift stores, low-income families will be stuck with the “leftovers”. A good alternative would be shopping at online thrift stores. They are low cost and have tons of trendy clothing and accessories.

The reason so many people are adamant that nobody should shop fast fashion is that the fashion industry is one of the top polluters in the world. Unfortunately, polyester and other synthetic materials are everywhere. It would honestly be very difficult in this day and age to find naturally resourced clothing that is attainable to the average family. 

“It’s not fair to get mad at people who don’t shop ethically if they don’t know the problems exist,” Bogart said.

A good alternative for active wear is Gap’s athletic wear line, Athleta. It is good quality and ethically made, while being around the same prices as Nike.

It is nearly impossible to avoid all fast fashion brands due to the convenience and costs. Just taking a look at a few sustainable brands and limiting your consumption of unsustainable branded clothing can make a difference.