Fashion trends seem to be circulating in and out of style at increasingly rapid rates. Combine this extreme rate of turnover with a global pandemic and an increase in online shopping, and you have the perfect storm.
The new-found joy of receiving a package after months spent at home with little excitement combined with the financial squeeze of loss and unemployment throughout a pandemic creates the perfect environment for fast fashion to thrive.
Fast fashion is defined as clothing that is mass-produced and sold at an extremely low price. This is cheap and trendy fashion that expects to be thrown into next season’s dumpster.
Fast fashion has been a point of contention for environmentalists and humanitarians for years because of its negative impacts on the environment and its unethical labor practices..
SHEIN, Fashion Nova, ROMWE, and other online stores have been criticized and investigated. Rumors and reports of unethical labor have plagued these companies lately.
Most recently, the online store Boohoo has responded to allegations of poor working conditions in their factories and has cut off over 400 suppliers in the UK after reports of low wages and poor COVID-19 regulations.
Other online realtors have also addressed these issues on their sites. SHEIN’s social responsibility statement can be found on their website and covers their social and environmental impact.
SHEIN’s statements says that they are committed to fair labor and that they never use child labor or forced labor. It also states that they pay their workers a fair and legal wage.
While there is not much proof on either side of the argument, it seems unlikely that these companies can provide such low cost products without some sort of unethical process in their supply chains.
SHEIN also addresses the environmental impacts; stating that they only styles in high demand are mass-produced, and that their warehouses and fabric printing processes are greener than most.
It may be true that their processes are somewhat eco-friendly, but their business model encourages quick turnover and disposal of clothing and their materials are not guaranteed as being ethically or sustainably sourced.
College students also make up a large portion of the online shopping demographic. These stores operate solely online so they target audiences that are more likely to order from the internet.
Staying trendy while also accommodating a tighter budget is appealing to college students and many look past the other issues associated with this kind of consumerism.
Ethically and sustainably sourced clothing options can be a struggle for students with limited income as these types of items are pricey and harder to find.
If students find it necessary to purchase fast fashion items, the best thing to do is to remember to donate clothing that is still in good condition, and to shop second hand when possible.
Reusing and recycling the materials is the easiest way to ease the environmental burden of ever-changing trends and the fast fashion industry.
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