Chances are, you have often seen clothes on sale for under $15. While it may seem like snagging a great deal, the true cost is much darker.

We first need to understand fast fashion, which is when big brand names create copies of popular designs at breakneck speeds, selling styles at a fraction of the cost.

The price you pay for clothes directly correlates to the low wages paid to those who make the clothing. 1 in 6 people work in the fashion industry, mostly in developing countries, and are underpaid for their work and stuck in poverty. Of the final selling price of many articles of clothing made in foreign factories, only 1-3% is given to the person who made the piece.

There are over 8,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, and the country is the second-largest clothing producer in the world, bringing in billions of dollars a year due to the industry alone. Four million Bengali citizens work in these factories. Employees often work long hours in terrible working conditions. Workers also have very high quotas to fill daily, and if they are not filled, their jobs are at risk.

Why are so many clothes needed at such a fast pace? Enter social media. The reason fast fashion has become so popular is because of wider media influence. Now, everyone “needs” a new outfit to post online, and with so many trends created yearly, the demand for new clothes at cheap prices has grown. On social media, you just need an outfit to look good in a picture. Then you can throw it away, right?

Wrong. The environmental impact of fast fashion is devastating. Globally, 4 billion pounds of textile waste goes into landfills each year. The fashion industry is also responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. Clothes are shipped multiple times in pursuit of cheaper labour and material. Freshwater is also used to dye clothing, and chemicals are dumped back into water, typically near factories in poor areas.

So what are the solutions? While most fast fashion is not made to last, we can try to get more wear out of our outfits. We should also buy clothes on a needs instead of wants basis, be more intentional shoppers, and invest in long-lasting, quality pieces that we will wear regularly. We can also try to thrift clothing, and give our own excess clothing to people in our circles as hand-me-downs. Many things sent to thrift stores end up in landfills or back in the developing countries they were made in as waste. To truly extend clothing lifespans, we can keep them in closets longer. Become in control of your fashion, don’t let fashion trends control you.

[1] Tan, Z. (2016, April 10). What happens when fashion becomes fast, disposable and cheap?

[1] Fast Fashion’s Effect on People, The Planet, & You TEDxUniversityofMississippi [Video file]. (2017, March 08).[1] Rauturier, S. (2021, July 26). What is fast fashion?

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