For college aged students, clothes are expensive, and styles are constantly changing. Popular stores such as Shein, Forever 21, H&M and American Eagle operate as “fast fashion” – stores specializing in trendy clothes at the cost of workplace ethics. To some students, this is highly unacceptable, and they search for alternatives to fast fashion.
Sophomore social work major Caroline Wert says the way some stores present their merchandise is misleading.
More expensive fast fashion stores such as Urban Outfitters only pretend to be more environmentally and socially conscious, Caroline said, but their clothes are made in the same way as their cheaper counterparts like Fashion Nova.
“Even if they're different price points, people don't really realize anything that's mass produced, that it's all the same,” Wert said.
Wert says for her the biggest turn-off toward a store is how their clothing is sourced and what they do with the clothes they don’t end up selling.
“So stuff doesn't sell, do they donate it, or did they just put it in a landfill?” Wert said. “Or do they at least send it to stores like TJ Maxx, where they can have a second chance of being sold?”
To sophomore president of Green Team Jillian Gruber, fast fashion is hard to avoid.
“All of the stores at the mall like H&M, Forever 21, Hollister, all of those are fast fashion. And I don't have the money to shop at places that don't mistreat their workers,” Gruber said. “A lot of these clothes are designed to just fall apart within a few years, and you throw them away, and you go buy more.”
Second-year social work major Grace Brunton said changes to the fast fashion industry need to be made at a systematic level rather than an individual level.
“I think it's a symptom of a larger problem, that people can't afford sustainable living,” Brunton said. “There's that mindset of if you really boil down to it, almost every single store has those human rights violations and has this issue”.
Gruber, Brunton and Wert all often thrift, but Brunton says sometimes that is not possible for her.
“If you need a specific thing, or a specific item, there's no guarantee that's gonna be at a secondhand store or something like that,” Brunton said.
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Gruber uses an app called Good On You to seek out brands she’d prefer to buy from. Good On You gives the store a rating in regards to environmental friendliness and how they treat workers.
“I think we could use a lot more types of software like that, for all companies in general, just to expose them.” Gruber said. “I think we need to develop that culture of exposing the businesses and demonstrating to them that they should not be in control of our lives.”