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Fast Fashion: ‘unsustainable’ for environment, human rights

A+clothing+rack+with+clothes+from+several+different+fast+fashion+brands.+Clothing+like+this+harms+the+environment+and+the+workers+who+make+it.
A clothing rack with clothes from several different fast fashion brands. Clothing like this harms the environment and the workers who make it.

A clothing rack with clothes from several different fast fashion brands. Clothing like this harms the environment and the workers who make it.

Photo by Liz Haltrecht

Photo by Liz Haltrecht

A clothing rack with clothes from several different fast fashion brands. Clothing like this harms the environment and the workers who make it.

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What do Zara, Forever 21 and H&M have in common, besides the fact that they are some of the world’s most popular fashion brands? Their practices also harm the environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.”

These clothing pieces contribute to the fast fashion cycle, meaning that they are made of cheap fibers, such as nylon, which harm the environment.

Fast fashion has become a widely-used term in recent years, and it expresses companies’ desires to produce clothing as quickly as possible to keep up with ever-changing trends. Essentially, these more accessible brands are taking clothes immediately off the runway, copying the designs and selling them at much lower price points.

Archer sophomore Isabelle Lewis has always been interested in fashion and potentially sees herself pursuing a career in the field in the future. When shopping, she often visits stores such as Zara, a popular fast fashion brand.

Although Lewis is aware of the fact that she is supporting fast fashion companies, she also notes that it is easy to forget about the negative aspects of fast fashion while shopping.

According to NPR, American Households spent an average of $1,768 on clothing in 2014.

Yassi Soufer ’19 has a fashion blog with over a thousand Instagram followers. However, like Lewis, Soufer is not well versed in fast fashion.

Photo by Liz Haltrecht
The H&M store at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. H&M is a popular fast fashion business.

Soufer said that she often prioritizes how a piece of clothing makes her feel rather than how it was produced.

“If I knew more about fast fashion, I think I would be able to choose my clothing more carefully,” Soufer said. “I definitely want to learn more.”

Archer offers an interdisciplinary course called Aesthetics and Identity, which is taught by French teacher Kate Webster. Students enrolled in the course, along with those in the Sustainable Living and Design class, presented the negative effects of fast fashion to the Upper School earlier this year.

According to Archer’s 2017-18 Course Catalog, Aesthetics and Identity is “a branch of philosophy exploring art, beauty and taste and our judgments of each.

The Archer course catalog states, “Some of the main questions posed in the class include, “How do we value form versus function? What mortal implications arise from our choices?”

Prior to becoming a teacher at Archer, Webster worked for Christian Louboutin, a high-end shoe company. While working for the brand in New York City, Webster was able to visit the factory in Milan and see the craftsmanship that was taking place to create the shoes.

After having worked in the fashion industry, Webster was a unique perspective from her first-hand experience. To hear more about the fast fashion process from Webster, click on the audio recording to the right.

“I was lucky enough to work for a company that made their products by hand, [and] their workers were treated really well,” Webster said.

Hannah Park ’19 describes herself as a “victim of fast fashion.”

Although she tries her best to be as environmentally conscious as possible, like Lewis and Soufer, she has never been fully educated on the issues that arise from fast fashion.

Park was inspired by the presentation given at Archer to make both a difference in the United States and Kenya. Every year, Park travels to a village called Maya and Mombasa, a city in Kenya, with her family. This year, she plans to collect clothing to bring to local children, who she believes would strongly benefit from it. This clothing would otherwise be unused or end up creating more waste in the United States.

“Change is not only needed in Kenya, it is needed everywhere,” Park said.

Webster emphasized that fast fashion not only harms the environment, but the workers that produce the goods.

“Ultimately, fast fashion is a machine that cranks out clothing at a rate that is unsustainable for both human rights and the environment.”

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