As I look back on my life up until recent years, I realize how much fast fashion has taken a toll on me, as well as our planet.
As much as I love fashion, I find myself getting caught up in trends and what other people are wearing and posting on social media. Day by day, my Instagram feed continues to be saturated with outfit photos of friends, peers, fashion icons, and influencers rocking the next hottest trend, whether it be a pair of platform sneakers, an oversized coat, or a voluminous dress that makes a bold fashion statement, literally.
And this is where fast fashion comes into play, as global fast fashion giants like Forever21, H&M, and Zara sell mountains of trendy clothes that seemingly come straight off the runway at an extremely affordable price point. These brands are highly cognizant of the extent to which we’re influenced by our friends’ posts and by celebrity endorsements, and they capitalize off of it. But do consumers understand the extensive price of their hasty shopping habits? And are they aware that Instagram serves as the enabler of these destructive habits?
Over the years, Instagram has started to become the one-stop shop for all my fashion needs and inspirations. The more fashion icons I followed, the easier it was for me to keep up and keep tabs on which clothing item I needed to ditch, and which clothing item I needed to add to my wardrobe. However, as I took a few steps back, I began to realize how deceiving Instagram can be. As the fashion icons I admire and look up to wear and post outfits that cost thousands of dollars, I’ve realized that the only way I can realistically afford to keep up, especially as a full-time college student, is if I give in to this toxic cycle of fast fashion.
In order to stay in the game, we oftentimes forget or even overlook the harsh realities of fast fashion. Fast fashion is dependent on the outsourcing of labor in developing countries. Buying cheap comes at a high cost. Who made your clothes? It’s highly probable that the people who made your clothes are not only working in unsafe conditions, but are also being grossly underpaid for long hours without any breaks. According to UNICEF and the International Labor Organization, an estimated 170 million children are working in the clothing industry all over the world today. We’ve become so willing to compromise the integrity of fashion by exploiting workers and children, just so we could buy trendy clothes at a low cost and post about it on social media.
Fast fashion is also one the fastest growing categories of waste in the world. Shopping has never been so easy with its accessibility, swift inventory turnovers, and affordability. We purchase an obscene amount of clothes and throw away our old clothes, that were perhaps never even worn, at a quicker rate than ever before. According to a New York Post article, people dispose of their clothes after having worn them three times at most on their Instagram pages. Before social media, nobody really saw what you wore. Now, your closet is exposed to the public through a screen, and people are becoming increasingly self-conscious of wearing the same thing too often that they feel the need to explain themselves.
As clothing becomes more disposable and less meaningful with fast fashion, we begin to overload our landfills with billions of pounds of fabric waste. The global carbon footprint in the fashion industry, as well as water pollution caused by toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of our clothes, are rapidly evolving at an alarming rate. We’re consuming faster than our planet can handle, and we need to do something about it before it’s too late.
With the help of the Internet and even Instagram, I was able to make myself more aware, informed, and educated on sustainable fashion. By following public icons who also believe in the importance of sustainable fashion, I was able to discover companies like Reformation, Everlane, and Proof Collective. I’ve grown a lot more accustomed to ethical companies and small businesses. I love the fact that as a consumer, I have the power and freedom to support individuals who really seek to do things the right way by slowing down. Sure, ethical fashion is a lot more expensive since things are made locally and created in smaller batches, but I’ve learned not to buy as much and to instead invest in quality pieces that I find meaningful and worthwhile. It’s important to always keep yourself in check, and to catch yourself when scrolling through your Instagram feed, tempted to make impulse purchases to satisfy your fleeting moment of inspiration. Don’t allow social media to have that control over you.
When you start to truly care about the environmental impact your purchases have, and the power you have as a consumer, you learn to appreciate simplicity. Strive to be more mindful with your purchasing decisions… the world will thank you for it.