Written by Mirella Barrera-Betancourt
The allure of clothing brands like H&M, Shein and Forever 21 can be tempting to many consumers. With their cheap prices, trendy clothing and wide display of styles, fast fashion clothing brands have become increasingly popular amongst social media influencers or so-called “trendsetters.”
It is a generally undisputed fact that fast fashion is bad for the planet and ethically immoral — but what some need to acknowledge is that, for many people, it can be their only option.
Many environmentalists opposing fast fashion argue that it is worth it to spend the couple more dollars needed to buy something that will last. But when it comes down to using that last paycheck to buy an expensive pair of jeans or save it for healthier grocery options, most would choose the latter. High end and sustainable clothing is sometimes just not an option, especially for college students, who are often living paycheck to paycheck.
Perhaps it’s time to stop dumping all the blame on those who shop fast fashion, and instead look at the systems businesses employ that encourage this behavior from their consumers. Today, an individual cannot scroll through Instagram without seeing a Shein ad urging them to buy that baby blue mini dress — regardless of the fact that it’s fall and they would probably freeze to death trying to wear it.
While there have been various attempts to boycott fast fashion companies, the reality is that it would take an enormous portion of consumers to make enough of an impact for prominent companies to even consider changing their ways.
Cutting out fast fashion from an individual’s lifestyle choices can be difficult for many; however, it is possible to be an ethically responsible and conscious consumer.
Shopping fast fashion does not necessarily have to result in the disposal of such large amounts of clothing after a short period of time. Fast fashion is often not the stereotypical “wear once and throw away” notion that many people seem to believe.
If shopping fast fashion is an individual’s only option, being a more sustainable consumer can simply mean: “buy what you need and wear what you buy.” If properly maintained, a clothing item from Shein could last up to four years.
Furthermore, depending on the condition, used clothing can be consigned, lent to others, or donated to second-hand shops. In recent years, shopping at thrift stores has become more normalized. Some popular Oregon second-hand stores include Salvation Army, St.Vincent de Paul and Goodwill.
The verdict is this: above all, one should be conscious of their shopping habits. In the end, giving in to buying that Shein dress from an Instagram ad every once in a while is not going to make much of a difference in the vast, unethical world of fast fashion. What will truly make a difference is what one decides to do with that piece of clothing down the road. Will one throw it away after a single use? Or will they consciously maintain it so they can wear it proudly for the next four years?
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