By Madison Kitch
Fashion is a way of expressing yourself. Whether it’s off the runway, from the thrift store or somewhere in between, fashion allows people to show off their personal style in a creative way. Figuring out personal style can be especially exciting for teens that aren’t sure what they like, but teens aren’t always responsible with money. Even though 67% of teens have jobs, many end up going to accessible and affordable stores that carry a wide variety of the current trends to experiment with. Affordable stores, commonly known as “fast fashion” stores, seem harmless enough, but with a closer look, they have more than a few dark secrets.
Fast fashion is a popularized trend that’s swept over America in the last two decades. Stores in this category can usually be characterized by three things: cheap clothing, even cheaper material and new arrivals of (usually trendy) clothes weekly. Fast fashion sounds like what it is, but there’s a few deep-rooted issues.
“If I’m just shopping for fun, I’ll go to a fast fashion store,” Kayla Bunton, junior said. “If I’m looking for something specific, I’ll go to a higher-priced store.”
Fast fashion heavily relies on trends and insecurity. Stores sell clothes, only to tell consumers four weeks later that those clothes are now “ugly” or “not trendy enough.” This easily leads to consumers buying more clothes and cluttering up their closet.
After buying all the clothes that were advertised, there comes the problem of space. If a consumer has been through this routine before, the person might have an over-crowded closet. Some people donate to thrift stores, but most throw their ever-changing wardrobe in the garbage without a second thought. The average American tosses 81 pounds of clothing each year. To make matters worse, it can take anywhere from one month to 40 years for these clothes to break down. The worst offender is lycra, the material that activewear is usually made out of, which can take up to 200 years to break down
“I always donate my clothes,” Emma Speros, sophomore said. “But I had no idea clothing took that long to break down.”
However, landfills aren’t the only way fast fashion is killing the environment. The dyes that are used to give cheap clothes color is extremely harmful, especially to aquatic life. Clothing dyes can contain chemicals and metals such as sulphur, nitrates, acetic acid, copper, lead, mercury and nickel. These harmful dyes poison the aquatic atmosphere, but they also change the color of the surrounding water. Color change may not seem like a big deal, but it blocks photosynthesis for underwater plants, so they can’t properly survive and create oxygen for the sea life.
In a report done by Greenpeace called “The Detox Campaign,” researchers tested 20 of the world’s most popular brands (such as Levi’s, Adidas and Nike) for toxic and dangerous chemicals. They found that a shocking amount of the items tested positive for phthalates, azo dyes (which can break down into cancer-causing chemicals) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) which are lethal to aquatic life. These chemicals are dangerous to workers who dye them and people who wear them.
Fast fashion will never be fully eradicated, but if we do a little more research into where our clothes come from, production levels can go down. Focusing on having clothes that are more expensive but made resourcefully and with high-quality materials is the first step. There’s still a lot of research to be done and helpful laws to be passed, but starting small helps. Fast fashion may be cheap, but there’s a hefty cost that someone else is paying.
“I’d rather buy a high-priced and high-quality item,” Evan Kaczmarczyk, senior said. “If it’s high quality and I really want it, I’ll pay the price for it.”