Fashion Nova, Zara, H&M. All powerhouses in the fast fashion industry, but should we be supporting these brands by giving them our business? I think not.
As a frequent shopper, and someone who always likes to have the newest, hottest thing, I often find myself having an existential crisis at check out, wondering how my choices affect the world around me. The fashion industry faces many different ethical issues including knock-offs, environmental issues, child labor, animal cruelty, and much more. However, with the rise of fast fashion in more recent years these issues seem to be worsening. It becomes difficult to shop responsibility when trends come in and out of style so fast because I don’t want to spend a fortune on items that I am only going to get to wear a few times before they’re considered dated.
This dilemma makes shopping extremely difficult, and knowing the choices I am making are unethical takes a lot of fun out of the shopping experience. Fast fashion seems to be at the center of many of the ethical problems the fashion industry is facing. Brands like Zara, H&M, Topshop, and Fashion Nova are infamous for producing products at a rapid pace in order to keep up with trend cycles and copying looks from luxury designers.
Americans bought 12 new articles of clothing every year in 1980, but as of 2019 the average American buys 68 new pieces of clothing per year according to Hasan Minaj of Netflix’s Patriot Act episode on fast fashion. Minaj explains how fast fashion has changed the entire fashion industry by democratizing high fashion by knocking off designer brands at a large scale. He uses Balenciaga’s high top sock sneakers as an example by explaining that they normally sell for $795, but Zara made a copy that sells for just $89.
While this may seem illegal, it unfortunately is not due to the weak laws we have for the fashion industry. In Johanna Blakley’s Ted Talk “Lessons from fashion’s free culture”, she explains that we have trademark protection, but no copyright or patent protection meaning that counterfeits are not legal, but knock-offs typically are as long as they do not violate trademark laws.
And of course, fast fashion comes at a cost, and not only to designer brands, but to our planet as well. Due to the never-ending trend cycles, and our constant need to look and feel stylish, compared to 20 years ago we only keep our clothing items for half as long, and the fabrics our clothes are made of are destroying our planet because they use insane amounts of water and oil to produce (Minaj). Additionally, 87% of all fabric used for clothing ends up incinerated or in a landfill. All this information shows that the fast fashion industry, while tempting, is actually terrible for our environment, and leads to many ethical questions for shoppers. With this new knowledge, I know I will be more thoughtful before buying new clothes, and make sure to donate or resell my unwanted items in an effort to be more ethical, and I challenge my readers to do the same.