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Fast fashion is the business model of taking the current fashion trends, mass-producing them, and selling them for a much cheaper price. This process has become popular and possible because of the advancements in the manufacturing process and the use of certain materials that are cheaper and easier to produce.
Unfortunately, while fast fashion is great for consumer’s wallets, there are a host of downsides.
Let’s explore why and eight fast fashion brands to watch out for.
The Truth About Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is harmful for many reasons, including but not limited to the increase of carbon footprint, terrible work environments for employees, and a decrease in clothing quality.
Here are a few facts to help you understand just how heavy fast fashion’s footprint has become on the world:
- Three out of five fast fashion items that are produced end up being put in a landfill.
- On average, each American generates eighty-two pounds of textile waste yearly.
- Every year, around eighty billion new items of clothing are consumed around the world, this is four hundred times higher than it was twenty years ago.
Here are a few important things to look out for when trying to spot a fast fashion brand:
- Where their clothes are produced – Many fast fashion brands tend to produce their clothing in large factories, where working conditions for employees are poor and they’re paid unfair wages.
- What material the clothes are made from – Fast fashion brands tend to make their clothing out of cheap material that is not meant to last. This is referred to as planned obsolescence, which means they intentionally give the clothes a small shelf-life because they know that fashion trends tend to move on quickly so the clothes don’t need to last that long.
- How quick is their turnaround time – A short turnaround time is an easy way to spot a fast fashion brand. They don’t spend a lot of time on their designs because they’re trying to get their products made as quickly and cheaply as possible to turn as large a profit as possible.
#1 Urban Outfitters
The essential store for hipster garb, Urban Outfitters’ sleek storefronts belie not-so-pretty production practices. The US department of Labor discovered extensive “sweatshop-like” labor violations in Urban Outfitter’s garment production facilities. Workers were paid less than minimum wage and not paid overtime. Additionally, facility managers were caught falsifying records or failing to maintain them, falsifying time cards and under-reporting employee hours.
Safe to say, if you want to steer clear of unethical fast fashion, say no to Urban Outfitters.
Uniqlo hasn’t scored well on their fast fashion report card. With reports of staff mistreatment with regards to labor during the 2020 COVID pandemic, this is a brand you can skip.
The British multinational fashion company may have made a name for itself around the world, but it’s also gained a reputation for labor rights violations. Topshop workers have been treated unfairly, the company’s management often overlooking the health and safety of their workers in order to maximize profits.
#4 Victoria’s Secret
After a report that hundreds of bras were dumped outside a Victoria’s Secret shop, this fast fashion brand has been on environmentalists’ radar. This incident calls to mind how much fast fashion ends up discarded in landfills—something Victoria’s Secret isn’t helping to slow down.
For the past ten years, Zara has had some serious missteps when it comes to ethical work practices.
For example, in 2011, Zara’s biggest contractor, AHA, was subcontracting work to a factory that kept employees in sweatshop conditions. Employees were severely underpaid and overworked, sometimes working 16-19 hours a day. Many of these employees were migrant workers, pressured into paying off the “debt” they owed the company for bringing them over to work at the shop. Some were as young as fourteen years old.
The company has disavowed the contractor and the facility and has since made an effort to be transparent in its list of suppliers. However, Zara still hasn’t made much effort to ensure a living wage across the company’s supply chain.
H&M stands as the pinnacle of fast fashion—perhaps even being the first on the scene according to some fashion historians. The brand creates more than 3 billion garments per year. This ends up creating a stylish pit in an unlucky landfill.
Vox did a spotlight on Shein as the hottest Gen-Z favored clothing line. They’re marketed not as fast fashion, but as “ultra-fast” fashion. Reading between the lines? They’re not just bad for the environment, they’re “ultra-bad.”
#8 Pretty Little Thing
Thanks to a recent investigation by The Times, Boohoo, the fashion giant behind Pretty Little Thing has been accused of unfair labor conditions. Employees reported being paid significantly below the minimum wage in unhygienic conditions.
Alternatives to Fast Fashion
There are many ways to find quality garments for an affordable price without purchasing from fast-fashion brands.
Here are some things to consider when trying to avoid fast fashion:
- Look for sustainable clothing brands – Find companies that care about the material they are using and look for high-quality, long-lasting material.
- Be thoughtful about how many pieces of clothing you buy – If you look for higher-quality items, you can end up buying less because you will be buying pieces that are meant to last, instead of items that fall apart after a few months of wear.
- Thrift stores – Recycling clothes is always a great option, one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure.
- Rent clothes – There are some pretty cool options out there nowadays to rent clothes. If you know you are only going to need something for one occasion and then it’s going to sit in your closet for the rest of its life, look into renting it instead.
How To Save With RebateKey
What’s the best alternative to fast fashion? Using RebateKey to find your favorite sustainable and eco-friendly fashion items for the best price and get money back as you shop.
When trying to avoid fast fashion brands, you want to be thoughtful about how and where you shop. RebateKey has you covered—shop savvy and start saving today.