Money & Career, Your Money

Why Your Cheap Clothes Are Harmful: Just Say No to Fast Fashion

1 Comment 06 May 2013

dangers of fast fashion and cheap clothes by Julie InzantiBy Julie Inzanti
I have been working in “slow fashion” for a couple of years now and am familiar with the consideration and care that goes into designing and producing not only an entire collection, but each individual garment. I work for the small, Brooklyn-based brand Nadia Tarr. We use American-made fabrics and manufacture locally in Brooklyn, which has given me a new insight into the industry and how important each step of the process is. It has also raised my expectations in terms of clothing quality.

Fast-fashion giants like H&M and Zara are perfect for the girl on a budget who wants to look good traipsing around Manhattan. I used to pick up cheap wears in bulk—and some of the far reaches of my closet still house the remnants of my “quantity over quality” phase… otherwise known as my twenties. But at the end of my discount decade, what do I have to show for it? I don’t have one fabulous frock that has survived even two washes or trips to the dry-cleaner. The only pieces still maintaining their position in my wardrobe rotation are the few I actually spent a pretty penny on.

The big draw of fast-fashion empires like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo is their ability to deliver up to the moment trends at a deep discount. Ten shirts at $20 a piece is $200—and they fall apart after one wash. Why not save yourself the clutter and buy one high-quality piece that will last through the trends and take up minimal real estate in your already space-starved closet?

I’ve certainly learned my lesson. I can’t remember the last time I saw the inside of an H&M, and it seems I’m not the only one who’s tired of throwing away my money on disposable goods. This Time article, “Are Consumer’s Getting Tired of Fast Fashion?” from March explains that consumers have grown weary of the big-box discount stores and are more concerned with quality and sustainability than they have been in the past.

Everlane is highlighted in the article as an eco-friendly brand with the motto “Buy less, buy better.” Their mission is to change the way people consume, or urge them to consume less. I’m sure the company’s executives would probably love to launch into the financial stratosphere of Walmart (whose founders occupy positions 6, 7, 8, and 9 on The Forbes 400 Richest Americans list), but they exercise caution and restraint, and above all, responsibility.

And it isn’t just a quality issue we’re dealing with when we consider the consequences of fast fashion. The safety standards for factories overseas are largely ignored in order to meet the the demanding supply schedule. Take the tragic garment factory collapse in the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which killed over 500 people. The factory mass-produced goods for labels we’re all familiar with, like The Children’s Place, Mango, Joe Fresh, and Primark.

This recent piece, “Fast, Cheap, Dead: Shopping and the Bangladesh Factory Collapse,” suggests that consumers can put pressure on fast-fashion brands to improve working conditions by halting their spending. Every time you are dazzled by a $6.99 T-shirt, stop and think about how and where it was made. Think about the landfill it will get dumped into within a few months. It always helps me save money and ultimately declutter my life when I imagine a mountain range of garbage closing in on me.

If you’re craving a consumer fix, try thrifting or vintage shopping! Reduce, reuse, recycle!

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  1. Iva Edgerson says:

    Great article, Julie. I have been researching more on outsourcing and the fashion industry. I do agree that fast fashion is a dangerous industry, however as a college student I am guilty of making frequent purchases at stores like Forever 21 and H&M. When you’re on a budget, one of the last things on your mind is quality or how and where it was made, unfortunately. While I want to support local brands and “slow-fashion,” I simply don’t have the money for it at the time. It’s kind of like the running joke that college students live on Ramen noodles. Yes, it’s extremely bad for you, but when you can’t afford the locally grown organic meals you don’t have much of a choice.


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