Slow down and resist fast fashion

TikTok keeps telling me to buy more clothes. The planet begs me to stop.

As an infrequent social media user, I dedicate one night a week to a guilty pleasure: mindlessly browsing TikTok. Recently, a video purporting to predict fashion trends spring and summer 2022 appeared on my For You page. To my dismay, low-rise jeans, ballerinas, sweetheart necklines, and flared sleeves are supposed to make a comeback this season, all things I don’t currently have in my wardrobe.

The more I scrolled, the more “Zara spring hauls,” “Where I Shop,” and “Get Ready With Me” videos popped up, with users spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on trendy new clothes from affordable online stores. My instincts told me to take a screenshot, save the videos, and open my Zara or Shein app to find everything I just watched, add it to my basket, and check out.

I thought I was the only one who struggled with the urge to over-buy. However, during class, I began to notice more and more classmates scrolling through endless pages of clothing on Shein or Fashion Nova. We all want the same thing: the feeling of luxury without the price tag. As glad as I am to know that I’m not the only one struggling to keep up with the latest fashion trends, where do we draw the line?

Instead of filling up all my closet space and emptying my bank account, I decided to investigate what really goes on behind the scenes in the fast fashion industry. Many fast fashion brands have been exposed over and over again for exploiting their workers, abusing lax environmental standards and polluting the environment. On average, it takes two to eight weeks for fast fashion brands to go from initial design to store, compared to luxury brands which can take up to two years to launch new designs. Online stores like Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and ASOS add up to 7,000 new pieces to their websites every week. Online brands like these flourished during the pandemic because their digital operations weren’t affected, unlike brands that rely on the in-person shopping experience.

As social media trends such as fast fashion big buys and the rapid cycling of hyper-specific fashion trends continue to dominate pop culture, they perpetuate a mindset of wasteful consumption. The high-tops we scramble to buy today could be old news for next year: Trends that quickly lose popularity on social media end up with garments thrown in landfills.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate an average of 17 million tons of textile waste per year, of which only 2.5 million tons are recycled. landfill release harmful methane gases that damage the environment and pollute water sources. The fashion industry contributes to 4% of Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions and it is the second largest consumer of water. On average, it takes a whopping 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one pair of jeans. There are no environmental benefits.

In response to the ill effects of fast fashion, there have been commitment to sustainable fashion or eco-fashion that tries to make fashion more carbon neutral, socially responsible or ethically produced with sustainable resources.

As eco-conscious, forward-thinking students on a budget, you can strike a balance between fast, affordable fashion and sustainable fashion. In today’s world, we need to think less about what’s hot and our desire to have as much clothing for as little clothing as possible and more about keeping our planet alive for future generations. Environmental awareness is not just about recycling plastic and cans, but also clothing.

In a big city like New York, it’s easy to find thrift stores like Goodwill that are as affordable as H&M or Fashion Nova. Second-hand clothing and resale are good manners be environmentally conscious and save clothing that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. Online marketplaces like Depop and Facebook Marketplace make swapping and selling clothes easy and affordable.

I know it’s not easy to pass up those “How to Dress Like That Celebrity for Cheap” videos, and saving may not be as exciting as a Zara sale. However, for the good of the planet, she chooses not to participate in fast fashion culture. What works best for me is shopping at thrift stores and only buying fast fashion as a last resort. Swapping clothes between friends and family is also another way to keep clothes from ending up in landfills. Every item of clothing has an impact. Let yours be good.

Contact Mika Chipana at [email protected]