As a lover of clothing, it’s tricky being a college student in San Luis Obispo. Not only am I inevitably broke, but the cheapest clothing option in downtown SLO is H&M. It is difficult to reap the rewards of the incredibly cheap clothes from H&M while living in such a beautiful city as San Luis Obispo. Buying clothing from this company supports the detrimental damage fast fashion has on our planet.
What is fast fashion?
A case study called “Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands” was performed by the IJHHSSI (International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention). This study defines “fast fashion” as low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends.
This cheap production of clothing mimics the way trends pop up on social media. One day I am scrolling through Instagram and notice Kendall Jenner wore fishnet socks with her vans. A few days go by and I notice all of my friends and peers are wearing fishnet socks, courtesy of H&M.
What role do consumer’s play in fast fashion?
The IJHHSSI used their study to search for subconscious values in male and female consumers ages 20 to 35. These consumers lived in Hong Kong, one of the oldest manufacturers of clothing in the world, and Canada, which plays no major role in the fashion industry.
The IJHHSSI met with their participants individually and instructed them to select images they associated with fast fashion versus sustainability. While many of the participants were dedicated to recycling, ate organic foods, and generally cared about saving the environment, few associated fashion with their concern for sustainability.
Within IJHHSSI’s study, “two themes predominate in [their] analysis: ‘speed and style at low cost’ and ‘disposability and limited durability.’ These options enable consumers to constantly alter their identity”.
H&M provides spot-on dupes for designer items. For example, H&M produces shoes that look exactly like the Rihanna Fenty collaboration with Puma, just without the brand’s label. These Fenty shoes can cost up to $250. They are also impossible to get your hands on unless you’re buying them from Rihanna’s rare pop-up shop in Los Angeles, where she literally checks you out at the register herself.
For young adults, the way social media fashion trends translate to the cheapest go-to stores like H&M is amazing. If you decide a trend doesn’t suit you, at least you spent less than $20. But this type of cheap, guilt-free shopping is far from guilt-free.
Fast-fashion is one of the leading causes of pollution in the world.
I learned from greenpeace.org that there are a ton of hazardous chemicals used in clothing factories and the garments themselves. These include “persistent and bioaccumulative PFCs, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, organotin compounds, and amines associated with azo dyes which can have negative effects on human reproductive systems and cause cancer”.
H&M is notorious for it’s contribution to pollution, but has focused on sustainability and eco-friendly changes more than most brands.
“Sustainability is fundamental to the future of our business. Looking 20 or 30 years ahead, we need a strategy that will both help ensure that our planet has enough resources to go around and that enables us to use and produce those materials in a sustainable way”. -H&M Head of Sustainability, Anna Gedda
Major brands like Adidas, Puma, and Nike have promised to rid of all toxins used to produce their clothing by 2020. H&M has made efforts to do so as well in their most recent sustainability report of 2016. H&M released this report promising to use only 100% recycled materials by 2030, and hope to become “climate positive” throughout their entire company by 2040. As one of the world’s largest fashion companies, these claims are a necessary step towards improving the environmental affects of fast-fashion.
What can you do?
The best way you can help is to get the most use out of your clothing as possible, and only purchase from brands that are eco-friendly. Rather than throwing away your old t-shirts or jeans that don’t fit anymore, keep them. Sew them into something new, or give them to someone you know will wear them.
If you want to purchase fishnet socks from H&M, you can do so here. I encourage you to tell your friends, family, and peers to sign the petition that promotes eco-friendly clothing production here. Encourage sustainability rather than bandwagoning on a trend that will last for two weeks anyway. Before you know it, you’ll be behind on the newest and coolest trend: eco-friendly fashion.