girl with fast fashion clothing and pizza/junk food sitting on neon background

Fast Fashion: The Junk Food of the Fashion Industry

Trendy fast fashion items provide consumers with immediate gratification and high profit margins for the fashion industry, but this comes at a tremendous cost to workers, communities, and the environment because they offer such a large quantity of trendy clothing at such a shockingly low price.
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Model wearing fast fashion and picking up pizza slice

Some of us may recall a time when clothing was only purchased once or twice a year. Back-to-school shopping trips were an annual family tradition, and hand-me-downs were as common as new clothing in children's closets. Even as high fashion emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, many items were purchased on an as-needed basis, and basic garments were constructed to last at least a decade. This began to change approximately twenty years ago with the introduction of "Fast Fashion."

What is Fast Fashion?

In essence, the term "fast fashion" refers to inexpensive, trendy clothing. Fast Fashion was initially promoted for its rapid transition from the product design phase to store shelves, but it is now primarily manufactured in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Vietnam, and China (TheFashionLaw.com). This branch of the fashion industry is now known for exploiting workers with unethically low wages and damaging local ecosystems with polluting dyes and chemicals, as well as consuming vast quantities of scarce water resources.


Trendy fast fashion items provide consumers with immediate gratification and high profit margins for the fashion industry, but this comes at a tremendous cost to workers, communities, and the environment. Because fast fashion offers such a large quantity of trendy clothing at such an accessible and shockingly low price, many consumers buy the clothes, wear them for a season, and throw them out.

According to the World Economic Forum, the amount of clothing that has been produced has more than doubled since the year 2000. Furthermore, the United States of America has the highest per capita spending on clothing of any country in the world. The Department of Labor in the United States estimates that the typical annual expenditure of a family on clothing amounts to $1,400. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). All of these unfortunate statistics work together to make fast fashion the worst part of the fashion industry, just like junk food is the bane of the food industry.

Women shopping at an outdoor mall

So what's the issue with fast fashion?

Why don't we view this as an inspiring example of economic success? It's because the rapid expansion of the fast fashion industry is extremely detrimental to the health of the environment, among other things.

 

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. According to the United Nations, fast fashion is to blame for 8–10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and contributes thousands of pounds worth of microplastics that are now found in the ocean. These microplastics are shredded pieces of synthetic fibers such as polyester and continue to be washed ashore. (Bloomberg.com) Rapidly changing fashion trends result in a consistent consumer demand for new purchases and, with each passing season, the production of an ongoing stream of clothing that is no longer relevant, wanted, or necessary. 

 

Every year, the typical person in the United States throws away 100 pounds of clothing. What is even more concerning is that 85 percent of the items frequently thrown away could have been recycled or reused instead. Today, only 15 percent of the population recycles their clothing. Many don’t know how beneficial it would be to our planet if they recycled clothes like they recycle plastic and paper.

Woman hanging plastic bags in landfill

How can we make a difference?

Helpsy works to prevent 30 million pounds of textiles from being dumped in landfills each year thanks to the organization's clothing drives, home pick-ups, partnerships with thrift stores, and clothing collection bins in 10 different states (and growing!). The vast majority (95%) of the items that Helpsy collects are either reused, up-cycled, or recycled.

 

Alex Husted, a Co-Founder of HELPSY, stated that "while the situation is dire, there has been a shift in people's perception of used clothing." In the year 2020, there was a 27 percent increase in the sale of used clothing, which occurred concurrently with a decrease in the manufacturing of fast fashion. Husted added that there is a growing trend among Americans toward clothing that is more sustainable.

Woman using mobile phone

Start with making smart purchases by giving clothing that has been previously worn priority. You could also fix what you already have to extend the life cycle of your wardrobe. Take extra care when washing your items, and when the cycle of your personal clothing use has completed itself for that garment, get in touch with Helpsy Collect for an easy solution to reuse your old clothes.

 

Ready to make a change by shopping secondhand? We've got you covered! Helpsy is here to radically change how you shop by making secondhand clothing accessible to all.