Opinion / The Nation and the World

The Green Action Committee worries about “fast fashion”

Fast fashion is defined by The Good Trade (a “premier resource for sustainable fashion and lifestyle content) as “a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing.” “Fast fashion” is a buzzword in the sustainability movement for a very good reason: the need for change in the clothing industry to help shed light on the environmental and ethical issues being caused by this approach to fashion and trends. The Green Action Committee (GAC) tackled this topic this year by presenting at multiple morning meetings and bringing in Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, who came to speak about the environmental side of the fast fashion pandemic.  

Back in February, I sat down over Zoom with three members of the GAC — Sophia Sahni ‘23, Imo Gong ‘22, and Alison Qiu ‘21 — and I asked them some questions about fast fashion and how Dana Hall is affected by it. 

What made you want to tackle fast fashion, and why do you think it was an important topic to discuss among the Dana community?

Fast fashion is a part of sustainability that most people don’t think about. Alison said, “If you think about living a sustainable life, you think about recycling and food waste but with the clothes that we wear everyday people don’t tend to think about that.”

Sophia explained that the ethical side of fast fashion is what drew her to research and inform others of the problem. She said, “This is the problem that hits home for me…. Many of the factory workers are South Asian, and I am of South Asian descent as well.”

Imo said that “fast fashion isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s also a human rights issue.” She explained that most of the workers are female, making this a largely unseen and overlooked feminist issue.

How do you think this global issue has made its mark on the Dana community?

Alison said that if our community is contributing to fast fashion, it is through “talking about shopping a lot and even just through conversations with friends.” 

Shopping and teenage girls are practically synonymous, as much of a stereotype that it is. Girls are constantly under pressure to keep up with trends, and most of the clothes where those clothes originate are from fast fashion companies such as Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21. It is a juggling act to want to fit in and follow the trends, while also wanting to be eco-conscious. 

Should we completely cut out fast fashion brands? 

In our conversation, all of the leaders said that it was not possible to completely cut fast fashion out. While the fast fashion industry is unethical and unsustainable, cutting off and boycotting those companies actually hurt the factory workers. When or if we do end up cutting off the fast fashion brands, factory workers, who are mostly female, lose their jobs and their source of income, thus rendering them unable to support their families and themselves. It’s a double edged sword and must be treated as such.

This issue will not be something that can be resolved in a day, or a month, or even a year. The problem requires all hands on deck to help end the mass production of textiles and to get equitable working conditions for factory workers. 

Here are some resources that will help the community to become more eco-conscious:

Good on You, a website with a feature that allows you to search clothing brands and how sustainable/ethical they are

The Good Trade, a blog about sustainability and fast fashion

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