Ditch fast fashion for a sustainable style – The Temple News


ALLYSON THARP // THE TEMPLE NEWS

Corporate retailers like Shein, Zara and H&M use cheap manufacturing – known as fast fashion – to keep up with rapidly changing fashion trends. While its popularity and affordability has increased among college students, fast fashion is both environmentally and socially damaging.

It’s easy to fall victim to microtrends as fashion is popular for only a short time and is constantly being promoted by celebrities and social media influencers. Young adults are now consuming fast fashion through bulk clothing purchases, which businesses thrive on.

More than two in five college students buy clothes for events they are likely to wear only once, Forbes reported. Because of these microtrends, consumers say they are addicted to fast fashion and college students would rather spend less on cheap clothes.

Students need to pause to see the impact of fast fashion overconsumption and move on to alternatives such as frugality and repurposing before rushing to shop for clothes to follow the latest trend. Fast fashion isn’t worth sacrificing the environment and workers’ well-being.

According to the UN Environment Program, the average consumer is buying 60 percent more clothes today than they were 15 years ago, and each item of clothing is stored for half as long. Clothing discarded by consumers ends up in landfills, a major source of pollution. Fast fashion manufacturers often fail to comply with their limited regulations because they are not closely monitored, leading to poor working conditions such as low wages, long hours, unsafe conditions and abuse.

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Although college students are the largest consumers of fast fashion, they are not solely responsible for the environmental and social impacts. Students are being attacked by companies that promote clothing through advertising and trends, making their products appear as the better and more affordable option.

In 2022, the average working college student in Philadelphia will be making $3,856 a month, according to Zip Recruiter, and fast fashion is more affordable in that space.

Companies that produce fast fashion know that college students don’t make much money, and they produce clothes that fit the style of hip college students, said Kira Eng, a sophomore in gender, sexuality and women.

“Buying fast fashion is a guilt, but a lot of people still do it because we can’t afford other stuff,” Eng said.

Nonetheless, students struggling financially can look to thrift stores for clothes that are generally more affordable and environmentally friendly.

The fashion industry is the second largest water consumer, responsible for a tenth of the water used to run factories and industries. It uses 20 percent of the world’s wastewater and pollutes the ocean, according to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, because many overseas retail factories don’t have strict environmental regulations.

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The vast majority of clothing produced is made of cotton, which is a big contributor to excessive water use, said Kolson Schlosser, a professor of geography and urban studies.

“Agriculture and growing crops like cotton always have a huge environmental impact on soil fertility, on water quality, on water use, because cotton is really water intensive.”

Aside from the impact on the environment, fast fashion has a negative impact on the people who make it. Many of the retailers are located outside of the US and use forced, child and underpaid labor to make clothes cheaply and quickly. Fast-moving production takes precedence over the welfare of workers, who are disregarded by the companies they involuntarily work for.

Another social impact of current trends is the pressure to constantly have new clothes, said Fletcher Chmara-Huff, professor of geography and urban studies.

“This whole consumer frenzy we’re on is no good, this whole idea that you should have something new and more. More stuff doesn’t make you happier,” said Chmara-Huff.

College students should turn conversations about everyday fashion and buying new pieces into discussions about sustainable fashion practices like second-hand shopping, donations and upcycling.

“The most sustainable option is always what’s in your own closet,” said Elliza O’Grady, junior advertising major and president of Thrift and Flop. “Before you buy a piece, think about how it would fit into your closet and how it will interact with your other pieces.”

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It is important to decide whether buying a new piece of clothing is the most necessary and ethical option. If the item doesn’t go well with your other attire, it’s important to donate or upcycle it rather than throwing it away.

However, when a garment does not fit properly or is worn out, upcycling – the reuse of items to create a more usable piece – gives the clothing a new life. Thrift and Flop is an on-campus club and resource that teaches upcycling to rework pieces that are already in student closets.

There are many thrift stores that donate their proceeds to charities and partner with other organizations. Philly Aids Thrift is a Philadelphia store where students can donate their unused clothing. Fabscrap is another resource that sells different types of fabric that are collected second-hand so customers can recycle their own clothes in a sustainable way.

Today, the Office of Sustainability is hosting a pop-up piggy bank on Polett Walk, selling clothing donated during last year’s dorm move for under $10.

It is important for college students to think carefully about their choices when buying new clothes and how to care for their unused items as this has a significant impact on the environment and society.



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