You Know Fast Fashion Is Bad. Here Are 5 Things You Didn’t Know.

If a jacket costs $20, how much does the sewer get paid?

Clothing Store Sale
Before you impulse buy any more "fast fashion," you should know why it's bad for us in the long run.
Artem Beliaikin/Unsplash
By Alex Lauer / September 12, 2019 1:08 pm

Everyone knows, on some level, that you shouldn’t be buying “fast fashion.” The exact reasons why — other than the fact that it’s cheap and disposable — are a little more opaque, to the benefit of the companies selling it. 

To give consumers a better understanding, Vox recently interviewed Dana Thomas, the author of the new book Fashionopolis: The Prices of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. The conversation touches on the worst offenders like Zara and H&M, and how apparel and footwear production contributes 8.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but here are five takeaways you might not be aware of:

1. Amancio Ortega, the man behind Zara, is one of the richest people in the world

Ortega founded Inditex fashion group, the parent company of Zara. That one brand produces about 840 million garments every year, as Vox notes. (That’s more than double the number of people living in the United States.)

2. How much money are the people making fast fashion paid?

How did Ortega break into the top 10 richest people in the world? As Thomas tells Vox, it was “by selling gobs of throwaway clothes and paying pennies to people to make them.” But that phrase by itself is hard for consumers to understand. To give you a better sense next time you’re shopping, Thomas puts it like this: “If a piece of clothing costs you $19.99, that means the person who made it was paid 19 cents.”

3. There are still sweatshops in Los Angeles

When Americans think of sweatshops, they picture horrific factories a world away. But as it turns out, fast fashion companies like Forever 21 have taken advantage of legal loopholes in America to underpay their workers. As Thomas says, “Yes, we have sweatshops in LA; I’ve seen them with my own eyes and it’s pretty dreadful.”

4. Change can, and has, come from people up and down the hierarchy

So what’s the fix for this? It may seem like this is simply a product of capitalism, and that these companies will only change if laws are put in place. But as Thomas points out, Kering — the parent company of luxury brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent — started to care about sustainability (and ended up leading the G7 Fashion Pact) largely thanks to one person: Stella McCartney. As for consumers, they can change the tide by giving up fast fashion and renting higher-price items instead of buying, both of which are slowly picking up steam.

5. Clothing prices have been relatively immune to inflation

At the start of the Great Depression, Hattie Carnegie introduced ready-to-wear dresses for $19.99. While basically all other goods have “gone up 100 times” due to inflation, as Thomas notes, “… that’s the same price you pay at H&M or Zara [today].” That should tell you everything you need to know about the problem with fast fashion.

Editor’s Note: RealClearLife, a news and lifestyle publisher, is now a part of InsideHook. Together, we’ll be covering current events, pop culture, sports, travel, health and the world. Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

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