Is cheap fashion worth the cost?

Staff column by Justine Leung, senior communication major

What’s not to love about H&M, Forever 21, and Zara? The clothes are reasonably pried and the cycles of new clothing come almost every two weeks. It never fazed me when I would throw away or forget about my garments after a month because of its poor craftsmanship.

My favorite shirt from H&M would rip, but I would justify that rip because it only cost $15.

This mentality is becoming a problem for our environment and contributing to the materialistic nature of our culture and society.

As college students, I feel as though we are often financially strapped, so even if we wanted to spend more on clothing, we couldn’t.

However, studies have shown that people actually spend more on fast fashion because of the increased number of buying cycles. The cheapness attracts us to buy, buy, buy, brewing a culture of instant gratification.

Before fast fashion, stores often had two cycles of clothing: Summer/Spring and Winter. Now, buyer cycles come as frequently as every two weeks. Trends are constantly coming and going and you’re always trying to keep up. Fast fashion is addictive and unsustainable.

Some of the materials in clothes at fast fashion brands, including H&M, also contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s), which is a dangerous toxin that has persistent hormone-disrupting properties. Other issues include exploiting low-wage workers and being environmentally harmful.

I’m no environmental activist, but I think it’s time to start educating the consumers about the disadvantages of fast fashion. Brands should come up with new ways to recycle old clothing.

I’m not saying that I don’t shop for fast fashion brands, but after reading up on all these issues, I have become more open to new places to shop.

What can we do? We are college students and can’t afford luxury clothing. One option is Buffalo Exchange, a store that recycles trends and clothing. You can trade all your old clothes there, and they either give you money or store credit.    Of course, they evaluate your clothing so you can’t just be bringing in junk, but it’s one way to be sustainable.

Another thing you can do is buy clothes from companies that commit to eco- friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing.

It’s about a change in lifestyle, in investing in good quality clothing that lasts longer and that we can use over and over.

Some companies have chosen to integrate recycled textiles and clothing in their collection, but it’s really not enough to keep up with our level of consumerism.    The most important thing to do now is to raise consumer awareness about advantages of ethically sourced, good quality fashion items as opposed to low-cost fast fashion.

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