Fast Fashion Versus Conscientious Consumption.
There are dozens of feature articles concerning the wasteful and environmentally unsound practices of fast fashion and the culture encouraged by retail chains like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and H&M. Most of these stories highlight the abhorrent consumerism and the alarming rate at which shoppers discard trendy, low-quality clothing.
But could the repercussions of fast fashion influence shoppers on a more individual level? What kinds of lifestyle habits and attitudes do these kinds of retailers cultivate? Is having a centrally located Forever 21 in a college town a good idea for students?
I spoke to customers leaving the U-Mall with bright yellow Forever 21 bags and asked if they could describe their shopping experiences in a few words. Most shoppers emphasized the convenience, the variety and the fact that it is one of the only shopping options in Davis.
For me, leaving Forever 21 empty-handed is a rare occasion. There is something about the hundreds of colorful clothing racks and the loud feel-good pop music melodies that encourage spending. The attitude of the store is frenzied; it can be an absolute madhouse.
Most of the items I have bought aren’t even in my closet anymore. It seems that nothing about the clothing at Forever 21 is made to last in a wardrobe forever. That crop top I bought last month is just as ephemeral as a stick of chewing gum.
Sometimes I deliberate whether or not the disposable nature of it all can be good; maybe buying clothing and only holding onto it for a few months is OK for this transitory time in my life – after all, I am in my 20s – I don’t need ridiculously high-quality clothing right now.
I spoke with the chair of the design department, Susan Avila, regarding her views on college town consumerism and fast-fashion culture.
“It’s frivolous and wasteful and seductive and wonderful,” Avila said. “It seems to fit well with students’ lifestyles, because the clothing is inexpensive and trendy. It allows you to change your identity, and it feels good to express yourself in a new way.”
Herein lies the problem with constantly reinventing your personal image through fast fashion clothing: “It breeds dissatisfaction with one’s self,” Avila said.
Personally, I become bored of the Forever 21 pieces in my wardrobe. Consequently I grow tired of myself because I am living my life in those clothes.
Fast fashion can negatively affect our planet, societal attitudes and our individual self worth if we give into its flashy allure. We can start to remedy this consumption conflict by changing our attitudes toward shopping and being mindful about what we really need. We should also make sure not to let our dirty laundry pile up, because I know from personal experience I usually feel the need to go purchase new clothing right around laundry day.
It’s as simple as reducing your overall consumption, reusing clothing from secondhand stores or clothing exchanges and perhaps even recycling and repurposing fabric. We must adjust our mindsets so that we don’t continue to generate 12 million tons of textile waste each year in North America alone. It’s time to be conscientious consumers.
ALLISON REISS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic by Tiffany Choi