Credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
*This piece was originally published on December 13th, 2019.
Americans buy, on average, almosta year. And many of those garments are worn just times before being thrown away. This breakneck consumption of clothes is only possible because of fast fashion, a system in which clothing is made quickly, sold cheaply, and seen as pretty disposable. , author of “ ,” walks us through the origins and effects of fast fashion.
- One of the reasons Americans consume more fashion? Well, in the US, mass-market clothes are cheaper than they’ve ever been. Thomas points out that garments cost the same amount today as they cost during the depression, not taking inflation into account.
- Making super cheap fashion turns out to be super profitable. Companies like Zara, H&M, and Fashion Nova dominate the space. And online, fast fashion accounts for around on the web. Amancio Ortega, owner of Zara, is now one of the in the world.
- Thomas says that the price for cheap fashion is paid, largely, by garment workers and the environment. She notes that, while Ortega’s net worth is over $60 billion, she met with Bangladeshi garment workers who made only $68 a month. Cheap fashion necessitates exploited labor. And clothing production accounts for an estimated , which doesn’t even take into account the caused by garment manufacturing.
- on how to move away from fast fashion and become a more ethical consumer of clothes.
- about the town of Florence, Alabama, and why it may represent the future of slow fashion.
- The New York Times looks at of the Dhaka garment factory collapse.
We heard from a lot of you about fast fashion and whether you would be willing to pay more for clothes that were sustainably produced. Here are some of your responses:
- "Honestly, I have had pretty much the same wardrobe for about a decade. Most of it is fast fashion items I bought as I was growing up and through college. Over the last few years I have bought higher quality items that were on sale, but I've only probably bought 1-3 items per year. I don't really understand this need to buy new clothes after a few wears. I'll usually wear something until it starts to tear." (Hammad, TX)
- "I am willing to pay more for clothing ethically produced. I avoid cheap clothes and question friends when they boast of paying so little (in a tactful way, I hope!). I do not patronize stores like Walmart and Target. The great idea of clothing swaps seems to be catching on with the younger generation." (Susan, MD)
- “I think definitely price is important…I probably would pick the cheaper shirts, to be honest. I think it depends on what I’m using it for. If it’s something that I plan to wear for a really long time, then I would spend that extra money because I think it would be good quality, and I think the fact that it’s ethically sourced is important too. But I think if it’s something that I’m buying for a short term reason, something for the holiday season…I’m going to do something cheaper in that case.” (Michael, MA)
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