Trendy outfits are temporarily in-style clothes that don’t usually remain relevant for long, resulting in countless pairs of checkered-print, slip-on Vans, tops with cut-out holes in the shoulders, and shell necklaces discarded in the backs of closets. Seriously, the thrift outlets are stuffed with enough skinny jeans to dress the nation for years to come.
According to earth.org, “We discard 92 million tons of clothes-related waste each year.“
Why do we discard so many clothes? Why do we even have so many clothes? Fast fashion may be to blame.
When trends change so frequently, companies are forced to produce those clothes as quickly as possible before they go out of style. This is where the controversial topic of fast fashion presents itself.
Certain fashion brands will make and sell their clothes for irregularly cheap prices in hopes that their consumers will purchase more at once. Considering how quickly trends change and the simple fact that these clothes are made poorly, consumers usually wear their purchase only a few times before it is discarded.
As for its effect on the Earth, Princeton University claims 57% of all discarded clothing ends up in landfills, where they may take 200+ years to decompose.
In addition, burning clothes in order to get them out of landfills only worsens the atmosphere. The air pollution results in mass amounts of toxic gases seeping into the air—where they will pose a serious threat to nearby communities, especially since fast fashion clothing is usually made out of polyester: one of the cheapest and most harmful synthetic fibers. Furthermore, when these clothes make their way into the ocean, the plastic microfibers produce a detrimental effect on marine life.
Beyond the environment, what is the fashion industry doing to young, impressionable teens?
Some claim that social media influencers are to blame. First, various brands approach influencers offering payment in return for promoting the products on their platform. So when their followers see that their favorite creator is advertising something, they will either want to buy it to support that person or to be like them. Either way, people are more likely to participate in trends when someone they trust is promoting it.
In addition, influencers also assist greenwashing: a way for a brands to profit off of the demand for environmentally-friendly products, specifically when companies attempt to deceive consumers with misleading information. An example of greenwashing may be,
An area rug is labeled “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content from 2% to 3%. Although technically true, the message conveys the false impression that the rug contains a significant amount of recycled fiber.Investopedia
One recent scandal of influencers and greenwashing involved singer, Billie Eilish, and H&M. In January 2020 Eilish released the collaboration promoting climate-friendly clothes, claiming the collection was sustainable. However, when the collab dropped and only two “conscious” pieces out of 16 in total were eco friendly, people were dissatisfied about the outcome.
Though H&M claimed that the materials used to make the clothes were sustainable, they are actually made out of polyester, cotton and acrylic. These materials-especially polyester-are not biodegradable. Cotton is no better; using more chemical pesticides than any other crop.
It’s apparent that influencers use their platforms to advertise companies’ products for money, and their followers are not reluctant to buy them. But what happens when fans can’t afford the clothes their favorite celebrities are promoting?
Do you feel pressured to participate in fashion trends?
It’s not like anyone has ever told me I couldn’t hang out with them if I wasn’t wearing brand-named clothing, but I always get a sense of resentment from people when my clothes don’t fit the norm.Anonymous CHS Student
Fashion trends change like clockwork. Trying to keep up can be expensive, and the pressures of trying to “fit in” can be exhausting. Sadly, some teens feel as if repping the latest trend will make them accepted amongst their peers.
Things like this are putting young people’s mental health at risk as they see increasingly more people posting on social media their expensive clothing and accessories, which they simply cannot afford themselves.Mindlessmag
One thing that people don’t realize is that within society there are dozens of subcultures that allow people with similar likes and beliefs to support each other. Dressing alike allows these social groups to recognize one another in public.
So when discussing fashion, it’s important to realize that multiple trends can exist at one time, rather than one single trend amongst the entire teen population.
Even then, wanting to be accepted into society is not selfish. Sometimes it’s survival.
So we’re faced with a difficult decision: should we be able to express ourselves through clothing, but at the environment’s expense? There is no precise answer, but supporting environmentally friendly brands is a good place to start. But first, research the company. Make sure it’s not a scam, so we can keep clothes on our bodies instead of our earth.