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How Fast Fashion Became Faster — and Worse for the Earth

Below, I am sharing a fantastic article I read last night, written by 17 year old Evelyn Wang (one of the top 11 winners of the Learning Company's Student Editorial Contest).

Congratulations Evelyn!!

via  The New York Times 

How Fast Fashion Became Faster — and Worse for the Earth

The spring dance is in two weeks, and my friend needs help choosing a dress. She beckons me to her phone where an endless mosaic of elegant dresses, not one over $20, dances before my eyes. After much deliberation, she settles on a glamorous sapphire gown with pleated details lining the bodice. Another two weeks later, the dress carpets the bottom of a landfill, worn only once.

The spring dance is in two weeks, and my friend needs help choosing a dress. She beckons me to her phone where an endless mosaic of elegant dresses, not one over $20, dances before my eyes. After much deliberation, she settles on a glamorous sapphire gown with pleated details lining the bodice. Another two weeks later, the dress carpets the bottom of a landfill, worn only once.

Welcome to the world of fast fashion.

Fast fashion is a relatively recent phenomenon. During the 1990s, retailers began to introduce trendy, cheaply-priced, poorly-made clothes on a weekly basis, intending to match the breakneck pace at which fashion trends move. Style became cheap, convenient and consumable.

Fast fashion, however, is ultimately a privilege. It is a privilege to buy clothes solely for their style, and it is a privilege to ignore the environmental consequences of doing so. In reality, the aggressive cycle of consumption perpetuated by fast fashion means that the clothes we wear are now more likely than ever to end up as part of the 92 million tons of textile waste produced annually.

During the pandemic, as stores closed, consumers ditched fast fashion staples such as H&M and Zara, instead opting to order from e-commerce social media sensations such as Shein and Asos. (Shein is now valued at $100 billion, more than H&M and Zara combined.) These brands represent an escalation of both fast fashion and its environmental toll.

These fast fashion newcomers thrived during the pandemic because of their unique business models. They exist entirely online, allowing them to ship the thousands of new styles they release daily to consumers directly from their warehouses, avoiding supply chain snags and U.S. import duties in the process. Meanwhile, a reliance on cheap overseas labor and synthetic textiles keeps prices irresistibly low.


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