Is Your Wardrobe Causing Harm?

Can this cheap clothing trap hurt more than just your wallet?


Sophia Caltagirone

Many fast fashion brands produce cheap clothing that isn’t suitable for a long period of time. Consumers end up throwing away clothes that don’t work for them anymore. The clothes are off to the landfill contributing to the 92 million tons of clothes in landfills each year.

We’ve all done it. 

We see an inexpensive outfit in a trendy store, and decide we have to have it. 

We wear it a few times, the trend goes out of style, and we get rid of it. 

What’s the harm?

 I thought this cycle of seeing, buying, wearing, trashing, repeat, was a normal phenomenon within our society. 

Little did I know, that despite the normalcy, I was contributing to the numerous negative effects of fast fashion.

Fast fashion is cheap clothing made fairly quickly by retailers acknowledging the latest trends. In response, consumers wear the clothing for a short period of time and then get rid of them after the trend has become obsolete. 

Fast fashion was introduced in the early 90’s when technology became more advanced. Trends came and went more rapidly than ever before because the world was at our fingertips. 

At first glance this concept doesn’t seem as detrimental as it actually is, but peering into the industry with a scrutinized vision allows one to see fast fashion causes severe damage. 

Hadari Oshri addresses three huge reasons why fast fashion is a problem in Forbes. One of them being “More Clothing Produced Equals More Waste.” 

“The rate of production to keep up has resulted in (literal) tons of excess inventory and waste,” Oshri said.

Companies mass produce cheap clothing because of the quick trend turnaround. Companies do this because it is too expensive to create sustainable garments for each trend of clothing. They make cheap clothes so they don’t lose money in the long run. 

This highlights the waste build up. People today are getting rid of their clothes after a short period of time resulting in the 92 million tons of clothing thrown into landfills each year. 

Isn’t that insane? 92 million tons of clothing that we decide we don’t like anymore. The more clothes we throw away, the more companies have to make. In a couple of years I’m positive that the number will go up dramatically if people don’t start to make a change.

Furthermore, a huge problem is that cheap clothing is starting to harm our environment. In order to save money, companies use cheap fabric that utilizes toxic chemicals in order to stay on track. However, these chemicals are harming life.

According to Kaya Dory, a United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) journalist, “Around 100,000 marine animals are killed each year by plastic waste, including microfibers.”

I believe in ethical companies; especially the ones that acknowledge the mistakes they have made. Brands need to address the toxic chemicals used in the clothing that is mass produced because the synthetic fibers are non biodegradable which means it can’t break down.

Another problem is the work conditions for workers are inhumane and appalling. Oshri addresses the “Low Wages And Terrible Work Conditions For Workers.” 

Oshri mentions H&M having female garment workers in Asia. These workers in supplier factories have dealt with abuse, forced overtime, mistreatment, exploitation, low wages, etc. 

Dallastown’s Fashion Merchandising teacher and Fashion Club advisor Mrs. Guttridge is hopeful that other countries will implement laws to protect workers and prevent fast fashion at the source.”

Dory addresses that “Nike, Burberry, and Gap… signed up to the Make Fashion Circular initiative,” in order to take control.

The Make Fashion Circular initiative improves the fashion industry’s sustainability by recycling raw materials and products: Which is a step in the right direction.

Seeing that some companies are beginning to take initiative makes me think that consumers should too. 

Recycling is a great way to reduce fast fashion. Being able to make new clothes out of the ones you already have would help decrease the turnaround.

However, not everyone has the capability to do that. But, donating clothes to shelters or thrift stores is a quick way to reduce fast fashion as well as helping people attain attire. A simple search of ‘clothing recycle centers near me’ would be a step in the right direction. 

But, Dory creates a good question: “how can we eliminate the need for recycling altogether?”

Starting to shop from sustainable and ethical fashion brands would allow people to have good quality clothing they will wear for a longer time. 

Companies would be limited from mass producing clothes because trends will be made for a longer period of time. 

Not buying clothes as often, and instead buying high quality or second hand clothes  should be sufficient enough that people won’t need to buy many apparel items so consistently. Buying less often will allow people to wear their clothing in different ways.

In a poll of Dallastown’s Fashion Merchandising class and Fashion Club students, 62% have contributed to a fast fashion company. And of that 62%, over 75% of them didn’t even know they were supporting a fast fashion company. However, the majority said they have begun to make a change in how and where they purchase their clothing. (Brooke Jordan)

“I would recommend that someone looking for sustainable clothing do a Google search for clothing companies that are environmentally friendly and ethical. Many companies are making this part of their mission. Also, thrifting is another alternative to support recycling and limiting waste in the landfills,” Guttridge said. 

If people put more time into educating others about the harms of fast fashion through social media than creating new trends that most likely will become obsolete in a couple months, then fast fashion wouldn’t be nearly as bad. 

As there is a need for more clothing moving forward, try buying clothing from local thrift and consignment stores or even luxury brands. Their quality is more durable and sustainable than the fast fashion producers, and it keeps people and our environment safe. 

Take it from me: A girl who fell into the trap of cheap clothing. I then realized that good quality clothes help our environment and may actually help define me as a person.

We all should do it. 

We see a good quality outfit in a store, and decide it’ll last a while. 

We wear it and save it, and decide not to get rid of it. 

What’s the harm?