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This is how your cheap clothes from fast fashion brands end up costing you money in the long run: '68 items a year'

The number of times clothing is worn has decreased by 36% since 2000.

Fast fashion

Photo Credit: iStock

Fast fashion has run rampant, to the detriment of all of us and the environment. The number of times clothing is worn has decreased by 36% since 2000 — and it's costing us big time, with the average consumer buying "68 items a year."

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion describes the practice in which companies produce clothing to match quick trends at rapid rates in massive volumes. It allows for clothing to be produced and sold for much cheaper, which can trick shoppers into thinking it is for their benefit, but this is far from true.

Why is this an issue?

Fast fashion negatively affects those who produce the clothing, those who purchase the clothing, and the environment. 

It relies on exploited workers in the Global South who are exposed to abuse, unsafe conditions, unlivable wages, and excessive hours. These conditions are made much worse by the constant and rapid demand for fast fashion

Fast fashion is catastrophically good at convincing consumers that having unlimited choices to meet changing fashion and beauty trends is to their benefit, but studies have shown this can leave us with decision paralysis and damage our mental health.

This clothing is also bad for our physical health. In order to make clothing cheaper and faster, it's produced with harmful chemicals such as lead, phthalates, and PFAs. Our skin is then exposed to these chemicals, which leaves us vulnerable.

These chemicals are known to have negative effects on our endocrine systems, livers, and reproductive hormones –– and have been linked to cancers and diabetes. In 2021, the CBC's Marketplace found these chemicals in pieces from SHEIN, AliExpress, and Zaful. 

Fast fashion's effects on the environment are devastating. The fashion industry produces 4% to 8% of planet-warming gas pollution and uses massive amounts of natural resources –– including roughly 70 million barrels of oil annually. About 63% of clothing pieces are produced with synthetic fibers made from nonrenewable energy sources. 

These materials are problematic far beyond production. They are also extremely harmful to our oceans. A whopping 35% of the world's ocean microplastics come from their laundering. 

The negative impacts of the fashion industry are exacerbated and accelerated by fast-fashion retailers as they produce way more, way faster and way cheaper. 

How can we work to lessen these impacts?

Fast-fashion companies need to address their harmful practices, but there are many ways consumers can play a part in the meantime –– and it doesn't have to be difficult or tedious. You can : 

  1. Get creative with your styling and find new and exciting ways to wear your existing clothing.

  2. Have a clothing swap with your friends! It's a fun, social, and easy way to make use of your old clothing while acquiring new 'fits.

  3. Gain some new skills! Learn how to care for, mend, repair, and alter your clothing so it can last as long as possible.

By implementing these tactics, we can save money, lessen the demand for fast fashion, have higher-quality clothing, and improve our physical and mental health.

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