Sustainability Concerns Should Keep Students Away from Fast Fashion

(flickr/franchise opportunities)

Fast fashion is defined by the distribution of trendy, cheap, and disposable items made available to consumers at breakneck speeds. Each season, the latest trends hit the catwalk and can be found in stores within weeks.

Cheap clothing is of great interest to students in particular, who often survive on loans and tight budgets. Although students have restricted access to funds, they are not exempt from the social pressure to look good and be trendy.

When the pressure to look good is paired with an industry that offers new “must have” looks every few months, it creates an environment where people are less likely to ruminate on their impact on humanity and the environment, and more likely to consume.

Due to the size of this financially insecure but fashion-forward audience, social media platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are overflowing with tutorials on how to create ultra-glam looks using fast fashion items. The users who make these tutorials come across as “regular” people just reviewing products for fun, but in fact they have millions of followers making them small-scale celebrities. They endorse brands and products and review things sent to them for free by big fashion labels—not just items they picked up at their local clothing store. These everyday stars help keep the wheels of fast fashion turning, showcasing the latest trends and modeling how easy and cheap it is to consume them.

The impact of fast fashion on both society and the environment has been covered in detail since the 1990s, most recently with the documentary True Cost. In short, that T-shirt you picked up from the $5 bin at Forever21 costs a lot more than a few bucks. The cost to mass-produce that shirt and get it to you has far-reaching implications on the stability of our environment and on the lives of the factory workers who made it.

When you consider that, and the fact that we consume more now than ever before, the potential damage done by fast fashion is staggering. The things that most of us buy have short shelf lives and are disposed of seasonally. We don’t always use garments until we wear them out, just until the fashion gods tell us to replace them with new things—and they do that pretty damn regularly.

Initiatives to combat the incessant pressure to spend money have started popping up on KPU campuses. One such initiative is the KPU Femme Wardrobe Swap, a Facebook group which allows you to give away clothes to other students who want them without any monetary transaction. We need more initiatives like this one, and we need to remain mindful of the impact of our actions as consumers.