By Sarah Scott
Fast fashion companies rule the fashion industry in the 21st century. Companies like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 are plastered across malls everywhere while Shein, Zaful, and Pretty Little Thing have taken over the online sector.
Fast fashion is the process of clothes being mass-produced at a high speed to keep up with trends and gain profit. This often ends up in unethical business practices being used to maximize profits while also sacrificing the quality of the garments. Shein and H&M have been accused of using child labor and sweatshops. H&M subtly admitted this in 2016, being quoted in an article by the Guardian titled “H&M factories in Myanmar employed 14-year-old workers.” H&M said that “It is of utmost importance to us that our products are made under good working conditions and with consideration to safety, health, and the environment. We have therefore taken action regarding two suppliers in Myanmar which have had problems with ID-cards and overtime.”
There have also been discussions on the internet, mainly on the social media platform Twitter, about cultural appropriation within these fast fashion brands. Forever 21 was under fire for describing panties as “Navajo” and selling something that resembles a Native American headdress. These were harmful to the Native American community and they still put out clothing pieces today which are offensive towards many cultures.
Overconsumption is something that fast fashion brands promote. When you buy something, another line is already released, and what you have is now out of style. The items are so cheap that it allows people to buy more and over consume. The environmental impact from the consumer does not compare to that of the company throwing away millions of pounds of waste and using wasteful production methods. But that does not mean that the customer should be buying hundreds of dollars of clothes every month as seen on Youtube fashion hauls or TikTok what to buy videos.
Despite countless scandals involving ethical practices, cultural appropriation, and environmental impact, these fast fashion brands are still being kept in business by teens across the world. Issues are brought to light every day by the same demographic that buys their clothes. It seems there are two sides to Twitter, one is calling out the brands and fighting for sustainable fashion or thrifting, and one is doing Shein hauls.