Is Fast-Fashion Sustainable?

Noah Roach , Reporter

When buying clothes, most people don’t think about the impact it has on the environment. With more and more people buying from fast-fashion empires like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21, should this be a subject of concern for the public?

Fast-fashion is a new subject for most people, emerging within the last decade. Fast-fashion focuses itself on being cheap, trendy, and reliable. 

Mass production always has negative impacts;, factories almost always have high pollution levels and poor work conditions. 

According to a Princeton study on the impact of fast-fashion, approximately 20% of the wastewater worldwide is produced by the process of mass producing cotton for these brands. The same study shows that 35% of all microplastics entering our oceans are from producers turning to plastics for cheaper production. 

This seems ironic since you can find a lot of these brands marketing themselves as eco-friendly. H&M has an entire page dedicated to the sustainability of their clothing on their homepage. 

At the same time, fashion magazine Surface reports that the company produces 3 billion garments every year, totalling to $22 billion in revenue while $4.1 billion of it goes unsold.

Zara, owned by Inditex, is the biggest fast fashion retailer in the world. It is also known to have some of the worst working conditions in the industry. 

An article by Attire Media gives a look into some of the standards being put on Zara factory workers, most of them are completely unrealistic. Some examples include assembling or checking one1 piece of clothing a minute, yet having to produce 150 pieces an hour. 

If these goals are achieved, the workers might be entitled to a small bonus that may make their wages livable. A lot of these factory workers spend years inside horrific environments. 

Manipulation of fine print is also used by a lot of these companies, covering up their tracks despite putting themselves as eco-friendly.

Fashion Transparency Index is a scale used to describe how truthful a certain company is about their raw material sourcing. Zara scores an 11-20% transparency rate according to the same Attire Media article mentioned before. 

The index is based off of the 259 largest fashion retailers on the planet, so it’s no surprise that their score is available to the public.

Fast-fashion provides extremely cheap clothing that a lot of people need, and most if not all are not aware of the price that the environment pays for the clothes they buy. 

H&M and Zara both have goals for making their production methods more sustainable and less damaging overall to the environment, so if all goes well with these brands and their promises there should be no guilt caused by going for fast-fashion.