Who gains in the Fashion Industry?

Kristen Bolash, Entertainment Editor

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I’m so happy I never fell into a “fast fashion” lifestyle. My mom never shopped at stores like Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, or even Nike while I was young or even when I was growing up to now. She always instilled in me to buy quality items infrequently (and wear them often) or buy second hand.

After watching the Real Cost documentary, I’m honestly happy I can say I felt little to no guilt because of my buying habits. Fast fashion, to me, is more dangerous than any major corporation or even the food industry because absolutely no one gains except the company.

People in poor countries are dying as a direct impact on western textile industries because we take their resources and use “sweatshops” as manufacturing. Textile industries are the 2nd most harmful contributor to water pollution after the agricultural industry and cotton and polyester are the most harmful. Obviously, it is harder to avoid these fabrics due to how mass produced they are, but we should take precaution in how much of them we buy.

Also, the landfill waste due to textiles is in the billions, and there is no way to dispose of clothing without pollution to our planet. We can wear clothes more than we think and “fashion seasons” don’t have to be a thing if you don’t buy from major corporations.

While buying second-hand polyester fabric doesn’t eliminate the polyester molecules that end up in our oceans every time we wash clothes, you are not directly handing those harmful companies money.

One family friend of mine, Dave, once told me, “Environmental issues are really important to me and I think the world should see how much more important they are, but we do need an occasional t-shirt.”

Call me crazy, but I think this fast fashion obsession is more harmful than our food industry because it is directly harming both consumers and producers, only to give an old person sitting behind a desk money in his pockets. Yes, our diets are harmful to OUR bodies personally, but I think when people use that reasoning they need to think about every individual’s family medical history, genetics and underlying health related problems before saying, “It’s your diet.”

It is no secret how unhealthy western countries are; I think we can all admit that by now. Except we KNOW how our food changes our bodies but we are willingly eating those toxins. I think it is more harmful to have a negative impact indirectly because there is no second thought before buying clothing items made by people in sweatshops because most people don’t know — while 90% of the time anyone eats food we question if it’s the healthy choice.

We all need to consume food, and, hey, I’m all about being healthier in my diet, but if we can all eat a little healthier, then why can’t we fly through clothes slower or purchase less for quantity and more for quality? Every time we choose a salad over pizza, we should choose thrifting or high quality over fast fashion.

You can look at a brand like Forever 21 and DIRECTLY pinpoint where they manufacture clothes and the conditions their workers endure, along with the waste/pollution the clothing production emits into our atmosphere and water. Even high end expensive brands, such as Chanel, manufacture in those conditions, so we need to evaluate our quality brands as well.

It’s easy to say “Bangladesh doesn’t have the same labor laws we do and at least we give them jobs,” and that’s true if you consider working 16 hours with no pay or no consent a job. But even if, that doesn’t erase the pollution and low quality of the clothes. Every time we wash a garment, polyester particles end up in the ocean for fish to consume. So if you’ve had fish, you’ve probably consumed plastic from clothing. But that’s okay because people in poor countries are at least given a job, correct? (Again, if you actually consider that a job to defend.)

The fashion “seasons” are purely made as a marketing technique. There is truly nothing that’s “in” or “out” of style unless if you look up to what a model has on her body as what you should wear. Influencers flood our social media, our magazines and televisions with what’s “cool” to wear and we jump on it. Stores like H&M change their inventory as soon as we find a new style. Not only do they throw those extra fabrics and clothing away to a landfill (no, they rarely give to a poor country), our money is thrown away as well. Because we can buy these items so fast and cheaply, they’re easily disposable when a new trend is “in”. About 100 years ago clothing was cherished because of the effort it took to make the material. Today, we buy what’s cool, wear it for a few months until someone makes a decision it’s not cool anymore.

I find with my closet and my buying choices I love everything I own because I don’t buy for what’s “cool,” but for what I like and am comfortable in. Yes, I have a ton of cotton band shirts and sports shirts, but I don’t dispose of them — I’ve had my Sidney Crosby shirt since 7th grade (I’m a senior now) and it fits me the same. My band shirts I cherish because I buy them all at shows and again I wear them for many, many years (I have concert shirts my parents bought me again from 7th grade). Even my items from a fast fashion market like Target’s jeans or shirts, I’m wearing at least once a week if not more. I only have so many pairs of jeans, and they’re the first I reach for. I never throw away clothes. I always give them to others or I donate or find a new use. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom throw away a shirt that could easily be passed down or donated. Even if it’s in bad condition (stains/holes), in my home we reuse them as cloths to clean with and then throw them away. I haven’t written about my dad yet, but he is the same way.

He literally will wear something until it can’t be worn. I’m the one who’s telling him to maybe not wear that Steelers shirt in public with all those holes. And he never buys anything unless he has to. Most of the time when we’re shopping for a belt of jeans for him it’s because of an emergency. There is NO need for a mindset of “I can only wear this once / once a week” because that’s not even why clothes were made 1000 years ago.

Maybe it’s too easy for me to say this because I’m not big into fashion, but I think as much as we promote many causes to “boycott” or “cancel” we should also be seeing how harmful textile industries are. Along with our diets to better our health, we need to diet on shopping to better our wallets and atmosphere.

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Who gains in the Fashion Industry?