Fast Fashion: An Income Problem Turned into an Ethical Issue

It would be great to see an affordable, trendy, eco-friendly brand to make us all more aware of what we buy. But for now, we must do what we can to make a difference.

Student Commentary

By Naomi Villamizar / Contributor

Photo by Sam Lion on

We all know fast fashion is bad. We all know that your H&M blouse will become tatty, and you will probably end up throwing it out after six months or even two years if you are careful with your clothes. Brands like H&M, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, you name it, do this deliberately because it is part of their marketing strategy: they create affordable, trendy clothes which will be short-lived because they want you, as a consumer, to come back for more. They make outlandish revenues out of this strategy, and the more we buy, the more they grow.

In recent years, awareness is being raised on the negative consequences fast fashion has on our environment. Tons and tons of clothes are being thrown away every year because companies deliberately design them this way. And yes, this is terrible for our planet. A study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe shows that the fashion industry is the second-highest user of water, and it produces 20% of global water waste. The industry emits 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions and 21 billion tons of waste every year.  

I want to start by saying that we must first check our facts before we use these types of sources to back our anti-fast fashion arguments (I constantly see Influencers using the facts I previously showed to campaign against fast fashion). Notice how it says, “the fashion industry,” not “the fast fashion industry.” The fashion industry includes fast fashion, but it is not the section. In no way am I trying to downplay the effects of the fast fashion industry on the environment, I just want to make the point that it is not just fast fashion.  

Many campaigns and influencers are trying to make people aware of the problem and suggest alternatives that just happen to be double the price. They attack the fast fashion industry but are completely unaware of the type of people who rely on fast fashion. What many people don’t get is that many of us buy fast fashion clothing because we cannot afford anything else. We are not all privileged enough to have $80 to spend on a pair of jeans. Yes, these jeans will probably last me 5 years, but when the decision is between buying these jeans or eating decent meals, believe me, you’d choose the latter. Because of this, many people would much rather buy a $7 pair of jeans at Primark and still have enough to eat.  

Regardless, I am not a person of problems only. I bring with my solutions for those of you who buy fast fashion but also want to be mindful of the environment. 

  1. Recycle or donate clothesthere are loads of places in Rome to donate! I use the yellow boxes found all around the place! 
  1. Reduce the amount you buy: as a person who loves clothes, I know this is a struggle, but every action counts. 
  1. Take good care of your clothes: separate your clothes into colors, don’t wash trousers so frequently, hand wash items are necessary! They will last longer! 
  1. If you can, buy the more expensive, longer-lasting brands: not everyone can, but if possible, try it. 
  1. Buy secondhand clothes: Rome is one of the top cities to find vintage second-hand clothes. You can look up Mercatino dell’ Usato shops all around the city! Some may be a little pricier than others, but you will be able to find the best one for you.     
  1. Stop supporting Youtube *fast fashion brand* hauls: it is common to see many Zara, H&M, Bershka, hauls on Instagram, YouTube, or Tik Tok where influencers try on clothes from these brands at least twice a week. This is wasteful and unnecessary and makes us as viewers want to buy them. 

Fast fashion is hurtful for the environment as well as for the people involved in the process (although this is a whole other topic). I am not trying to play down the effect fast fashion has on the environment. However, it is important for these so-called “environmentalists” and “influencers” to understand that some people simply cannot afford to spend massive amounts of money on better clothes. It would be great to see an affordable, trendy, eco-friendly brand to make us all more aware of what we buy. But for now, we must do what we can to make a difference.