On average, we are buying a lot more clothes than we used to. In a study done in 2019, it was estimated that we buy about 60% more clothes per person than we did 15 years ago, but people only keep each item for about half as long. The accessibility of getting clothes from online shopping and the constantly changing trends have led this to become a highly talked about issue known as “fast fashion”.
Fast fashion is “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”. This isn't a new concept. From a business perspective, it fits the goal of meeting supply with the changing demand, but since the creation of social media—and increased online presence— it has caused the issue of fast fashion to grow. With fashion trends spreading sporadically and fizzling out of the spotlight in a matter of weeks, the supply has to follow these sudden waves of demand. For some companies, this has led them to make large amounts of a product very cheaply—and in a very unsustainable way.
This is an issue that stretches over the entire fashion industry, and many companies are to blame for their unsustainable practices, but there is one that has played an incredibly large role in the past couple of years: Shein.
Shein is a Chinese fashion company that was created in 2012. They're a company founded with the mission statement that higher end fashion should be more accessible and affordable to all. At face value, the mission sounds great, until you look under the surface at how they actually operate. To cut costs and make their pieces more affordable and up to date, they produce more than is possible to be sustainable. They have a work ethic of producing as much as possible with very little expense to get it done. This model has led to reports of extremely poor working conditions in their factories, designs being stolen from smaller designers, and huge amounts of waste created following each item they make. The further you look into Shein’s practices, the more it shows how problematic of a company they are.
Shein is a dark look into how fast fashion runs, but it's not the sole perpetrator for the amount of pollution that is released from the production of clothes. Most big brands have to follow a similar model to meet up to the constant want of new clothes, so how can we break this wasteful cycle?
It feels good getting a new item and being able to show off your style, but before you buy, just ask where this item is coming from. In the current age of having limitless information at our fingertips, it takes just a few minutes to do some research on where your clothes are actually being sourced from. Looking a bit further into where your clothes are coming from both helps reduce the amount of harmful pieces getting produced, and makes sure you get a high quality and long lasting product.
This is a large-scale issue spreading world wide across multiple billion dollar companies. As scary as it sounds, it really is all up to the consumer on how these practices continue. Many companies have started listening and changing their ways. Businesses like Zara and H&M have made commitments to source their products only from recycled materials and have started integrating that into their newer pieces. This is a step in the right direction, but it's up to us to make sure more companies follow suit. Fighting with your wallet is one of the most impactful ways to make a company listen, and educating yourself on what's going on behind the scenes is the strongest way to make an impact.
It's important to be conscious about where your clothes are coming from, but for the benefit of the environment, it’s even more important to ask: do I really need this? If you do, try getting something new-to-you by buying secondhand, thrifting, and attending clothing swaps!
Join us for Drop ‘N’ Swap— a Campus-Wide Clothing Swap—on Tuesday, April 25th!
Join the Environmental Center on Tuesday, April 25th from 10am-4pm in the Glenn Miller Ballroom for a campus-wide clothing swap! Drop ‘N’ Swap is an opportunity for CU Boulder students to clean out their closets and revamp them with something new (to you)! Pre-loved clothing collected from students will then be available for other students to take for free at Drop ‘N’ Swap. Additionally, we will be providing educational opportunities for you to learn about upcycling and mending your clothes, where to find reused clothing in Boulder, and about resources on campus to help meet your needs in sustainable style.
You don’t need to bring anything to take new-to-you items!
Clothes can be brought to the Environmental Center in the UMC 355 from Monday, April 17 to Friday, April 21 or to the UMC Glenn Miller Ballroom on the day of the event!