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Slowing Down Fast Fashion

It’s no secret that students at BC tend to dress to impress.  Just look around during your next lecture or when you're walking across the quad.  Sure, there are always going to be people in sweatpants or workout gear, but for the most part Eagles will be sporting the latest fashion trends all over campus.  But let’s not forget that we’re all college kids on a budget.  Even though we like to browse the high-end shops on Newbury Street, I know that I for one always find myself in stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Old Navy, especially when I want to try out a trend that is sure to come and go but don’t want to break the bank.

It’s undeniable that fast fashion is enticing.  The deals and clothes are hard to pass up. Sure, I’ll buy an $8 shirt because it’s probably going to get ruined when I go out.  Why not buy a $20 dress for a costume I'm never going to wear again?  It’s better to spend $12 rather than $50 on a skirt if I’m not sure if it will look good on me, right?  This reasoning may seem valid, especially as college kids on a budget. But in the grand scheme of things, consumers’ decisions on where to shop, which practices to support, and how much to buy has an enormous impact on our environment and on people around the world.

John Oliver said it best: “Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever, and cheap clothing is trendier than ever.”

More and more people are buying more and more clothes, simply because they can look good for a low cost.  And stores are capitalizing on this “passion for fashion.”  Turnover rates are high, with brands sending new products out to their stores almost daily for eager consumers.  Retailers lower their prices to compete with each other in this new market of fast fashion.  This desire that companies have to sell a lot and to sell it fast means that they are lowering both their production standards and their moral standards, producing lower quality clothing with abysmal ethical practices.  Less than 2% of clothing that Americans purchase is made in the United States, raising questions about exactly where all these garments are being produced, who is making them, and what the working conditions are like.

Suppliers often produce their goods overseas in underdeveloped countries where production is cheaper and easier than in the United States, resorting to use of sweatshops and illegal labor.  Children lie about their ages to get these jobs just so they can support their families.  They spend countless hours in inhumane conditions for terrible pay, working tirelessly under supervisors who have nothing but complete disregard for their wellbeing.  The factories where they work are unsanitary, structurally unstable (deadly building collapses are sadly not uncommon), and lacking basic safety measures such as fire extinguishers and fire escapes. There are no child labor laws to protect their rights, and the thought of these kids working tirelessly to make clothes that they will never get to wear and could never afford is heartbreaking.

It’s not just the lack of a moral compass that should push us away from fast fashion—the quality of our clothing is decreasing at an alarming rate. Even if you're not looking for high quality clothes that will last you for years, it is still frustrating when a new shirt gets destroyed in the wash or when a dress starts to unravel at the seams after one wear.  

We are so quick to dispose of clothing we don’t want to wear or can’t wear anymore, and it often ends up in landfills.  This creates an excess of unnecessary waste that we produce without realizing it.  In 2013, Americans produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste, and around 85% of that ended up in landfills, according to the EPA.  

Buying better quality clothes from sustainable and ethical brands not only means we're supporting fair labor practices, it also means we're reducing waste and our favorite clothes will last longer.  It’s time to end this culture of disposable fast fashion and all of its unethical implications.  It is simply not worth it.