Fast-Fashion & Intersectionality: Buying Cheap Comes at a High Cost
Updated: Jun 9
By Tenny-Ann Dandy, owner of online thrift store Just Dandy Apparel
While the clothes from retailers like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M may be cheap and disposable, the effects fast-fashion has on humanity are forever. It is an issue that is in fact intersectional, affecting people based on gender, age, race, nationality, and class.
Firstly, let’s define fast-fashion. Fast-fashion is manufacturing large quantities of garments of poor quality which are sold at cheap prices. Fast-fashion has emerged as an incredibly popular business model across the globe. Similar to fast-food, it is quick to make, cheap, and of questionable quality.
There has been extensive peer-reviewed research linking clothing production to environmental health hazards. Every step in the process of clothing production leads to damaging effects that are often hidden or not thought of. This includes the “growth of water-intensive cotton, to the release of untreated dyes into local water sources, to worker’s low wages and poor working conditions”.
Fast-fashion companies you have probably heard of like Nike, Victoria’s Secret, and SheIn are able to sell clothes so cheap because of cheap outsourced labor who often work in unsafe conditions. Events like the Rana Plaza are proof of the danger. Eight years ago, on April 24, 2013, a building that housed clothing factories including Walmart, J. C. Penny, and the Children’s Place collapsed killing more than a thousand workers. To be exact, at least 1,132 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured.
Fast-fashion raises other concerns like environmental racism and sexism. Manufacturing work tends to be outsourced from developing countries and to people of color. Untreated dyes get released into their community lakes, rivers, and oceans. Oftentimes, these bodies of water are needed for drinking, cooking, and washing clothes. Furthermore, young women make up 4 out of 5 of all fashion workers in the world. Workers are often paid unlivable wages like $3 a day and risk their lives while corporations grow wealthier.
Companies have claimed that fast-fashion makes clothes more accessible to people of all backgrounds and provides jobs for people. While technically these claims are true, they come at the expense of the environment and human life.
Solutions to the fast-fashion issue include buying less clothing, repurposing and recycling clothes, and shopping and selling at second stores.
As much as we might wish it were, as one individual, it is nearly impossible to never buy an item of clothing, shoes, or accessories ever again. We can, however, be mindful of the fact that these companies need a culture of consumption to survive. Collectively, our actions can make a huge difference, which is why I created Just Dandy Apparel, an online thrift store that gives more power to the people.
I saw problems with fast-fashion including the inhumane treatment of workers who tend to be poor women and people of color, even children! Also, I was concerned with the excessive waste and byproducts created by the fast-fashion industry and how it affects our communities. I wanted to change this. The intersectionality of the environment means that hazardous waste and unfair treatment of workers affect some communities more than others.
As a business, our goal is to make fashion and sustainability more accessible by enabling individuals to earn additional income while minimizing waste and negative impacts on the environment and humanity.
We offer an alternative to fast-fashion which allows people from all backgrounds to sell and buy gently-used clothing, shoes, and accessories, and we provide people with information in blog posts. We also allow sellers to have most of the power and keep the majority of the income earned from sold items to make sure that there are no barriers for non-wealthy people. Our fees are extremely low compared to other brands like Depop and Poshmark.
It’s an easy and safe way to save and make extra money during a pandemic.