Contributing Writer Alice Yi, ’21

The Earth is warming; most people are aware of this. 

The rising panic of irreversible damage is pressing and clear. This past decade, awareness of climate change has skyrocketed, protests and activists are growing in numbers each day. It is a leading topic in our everyday lives, our presidential debates, and everything in between. But despite the outcries of the public and the rise in advocacy for the movement, many large corporations and businesses aren’t keeping up enough. Including fashion.  

Since the early 2000’s, fast fashion has taken over the clothing industry. Brands such as Zara, Forever 21, and H&M have made business models based on clothing sold at a cheap price with new looks rapidly released. Now, instead of the traditional 2 seasons per year, it has been pushed to 5 or even 7 micro-seasons. But requiring the constant supply of new apparel at a low price tag comes at a grand cost. According to the UN, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water, and the production of such clothing creates 20% of the world’s wastewater. Not only that, the fashion industry contributes more carbon emissions globally than all overseas shipping and plane travel, putting 8-10% of total emissions into our atmosphere. 

But, with the promotion of more sustainable lifestyles and choices amidst the climate change movement, consumers are more aware of the history of their purchases and the ethics behind brands. More and more teens and young adults are moving away from fast fashion and instead opting for second hand articles or small brands that fit their values. In turn these decisions create a decrease in sales for many large fast fashion brands. Though in addition, some brands have instead tried to change for the consumer, such as H&M and their conscious line and brands claiming to have a portion of zero or lower emission collections, but when actually looking into such changes it points more towards greenwashing and publicity than sustainability. And despite these differences, fast fashion sites such as PrettyLittleThing and Fashion Nova still remain widely popular. 

The consumers are getting away from harmful practices, but changes are still not being made where it matters. Many companies still rely on fast fashion or exploitive business models. Do not settle for the status quo of ignoring one’s contribution to climate change, as so many companies have, and instead support those who are conscious of their use of resources. Knowing the background and researching before you make a purchase can help you make smart decisions and create a message for brands of sustainability being our only option against global warming.


  • Elrod, Cassandra. “The Domino Effect: How Inadequate Intellectual Property Rights in the Fashion Industry Affect Global Sustainability.” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 2017, pp. 575-595. ProQuest.
  • Pierre-louis, Kendra. “How to Buy Clothes That Are Built to Last.” The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2019.
  • “UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion Addresses Damage of ‘Fast Fashion’.” Targeted News Service, Mar 14, 2019. ProQuest.

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