The conversation regarding how detrimental fast fashion is to the environment is one a lot of people are starting to have. Landfills are being filled up with clothes we’ve hardly worn made by people who were not paid even close to enough for their time, energy, and sacrifice. The physical repercussions are undeniable – but what has fast fashion done to how we think about clothes and the fashion industry? 

What’s the psychology behind cheap, mass-produced, and disposable garments? 

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Makes Us More Impulsive 

There are constantly new styles and trends coming out from fast fashion companies. Unlike traditional fashion houses that release collections every new season, clothing brands like Zara or H&M have a steady flow of new garments coming out constantly. Because of this, customers never really know how long things are going to be available – so you better grab it immediately before it’s gone! 

The combination of social media (including Youtube) and quick and cheap clothing has created a “snackable shopping” experience for customers. Watching your favorite YouTuber and they mention a top that’s linked down below? You can click over, scroll, then buy it in less than five minutes. How about an Instagrammer wearing a dress you like? Pop over to that brand’s page and use Instagram’s new shopping feature to get to the garments page on their website almost immediately. It’s all too easy. 

Fast fashion can give a quick rush of dopamine but will ultimately lead to regret because of the garment’s short life cycle. It’s a ‘live fast die young’ mentality. The hedonism attached to these shopping habits is difficult to ignore. Why buy one quality slow fashion piece when you could buy five for the same price and get five times as much of a rush out of it? Will those pieces last as long as the one quality piece? Almost definitely not. 

Creates Unrealistic Expectations About Clothing Pricing

There are a few reasons why fast fashion is as cheap as it is. It is made unethically, unsustainably (no time or money spent on eco-friendly alternatives), and most garments are made from polyester or a poly-cotton blend. To make matters worse, 97.5 percent of clothing in the US is made using exploitative labor in developing countries. 

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Part of the joy you get from shopping is not just that you bought something that you really like and you’re going to use, but also that you got a good deal,” says Tom Meyvis, who is a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business. It’s pretty hard to resist a bargain, and brands take advantage of that. However, the reality is that you aren’t getting a good deal when it comes to buying something that will last. 

To make matters worse, these brands knock off high-end fashion houses, making them seem even cheaper than they already are. They profit off of selling a high number of garments, and they rely on mass consumerism. Quantity is far more important than quality. And how do you sell a lot of anything? You make it as cheap as possible. Spending on clothes has gone down, while people own more garments than ever before. In 1991, the average consumer-owned 40 pieces of clothing compared to the average of 63.7 garments owned in 2013. While this may sound like nothing but a win for the consumer, the reality of the environmental and ethical impact of these statistics affects everyone in the fashion life cycle. 

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We Get Roped Into the Trend Cycle 

The short attention spans of the digital age have transferred to the fashion industry. Fast fashion is trendy, and it’s constant. Clothes are worn for as half as long as they were in the year 2000. Quick, flashy trends make building a new wardrobe feel like a necessity every month. And what do consumers do once a trend inevitably fades away? Get rid of the ‘outdated’ clothes and buy some new ones! 

Liz Ricketts, the cofounder of the OR Foundation that works to improve environmental justice, education, and fashion development in the US and Ghana says that she “saw how the acceleration of fast fashion was creating a toxic disposable culture across the entire industry.” This destructive mentality has real repercussions as the manipulative psychology behind fast fashion takes over our screens, wallets, and wardrobes. 

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What Should You Do?

How can you not add fuel to the disposable fashion fire? Buy less, and wear what you have more. Fast fashion is flashy and exciting! It’s fun to see what everyone’s wearing that month, and it’s tempting to want to join in on it. Just remember, if the whole trend popped up within a matter of days, chances are it’s likely to disappear just as fast. 

Sign this petition to tell Levi’s to do the right thing and commit to funding their factories in Bangladesh in transitioning to more sustainable practices, including the immediate halting of all wastewater dumping into the country’s rivers and lakes!

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