Fashion is an inseparable part of our life. Though often overlooked in certain cases, it is undeniably the truth that we all obtain clothing in one way or another. However, in the era of fast fashion, brands we regularly shop at, such as Shein, Romwe, Urban Outfitters, and H&M, have more dimensions to them than the polished facade we see. Inhumane working conditions in textile factories, the pervasive use of child labor within supply chains—such unethical practices in the fashion industry are placing customers in a dilemma that seems unsolvable in today’s globalized world.
As teenagers, we are one of the biggest groups of people contributing to the fashion market. What we buy matters. Yet, how exactly we can help in the current situation remains a tricky question. To learn about important information and messages about fashion nowadays, I interviewed Carter Wood ’22 and Zoe Perlis ’22, the coheads of the fashion club at Concord Academy (CAFE).
Carter shares, “The problem with ‘cancel culture’ [in fashion] is that you shouldn’t throw away our clothes just because they aren’t from a sustainable brand… If you have clothes you like, and you didn’t buy them sustainably, keep wearing them, keep enjoying them. Then move forward [and] don’t keep buying from these brands. You shouldn’t feel guilty about not knowing what you are getting into. [But] once you know, [do] make choices to live more sustainably.”
While emphasizing the message that everyone deserves access to fashion, they also pointed out the need for change in certain aspects of our consumerism culture. Carter said, “We need to shift the mentality to buying less. We don’t need to buy sixty new garments of clothing every year—that’s the average amount of clothing a woman in the United States purchases [yearly]. Do we really need that much? The modern market is always telling you to buy more, and social media has made us feel like we need to be constantly adding new things to our wardrobe. But it’s okay to wear the same thing twice.”
Zoe added, “A lot of ethical clothing brands are really expensive. More people can afford clothes because they are not made as well, and there’s a problem with shaming people for buying [brands] like Shein when it’s cheap and very accessible. The culture of the company needs to change—those who are buying it aren’t 100% at fault.”
For those who can only afford to shop at fast-fashion companies or companies that don’t have ethical practices, the coheads recommended thrift-shopping as a sustainable option. Considering our current situation with the pandemic, Zoe added, “If going in person, especially right now, is something you aren’t comfortable with, there’s an amazing [online thrifting] website called Thredup. A lot of the prices there are reasonable.”
Above all, they emphasized the importance of always being aware when shopping. “Everybody is traveling on their own sustainability journey at their own time… Next time you head to a fast fashion company, just keep in mind that what you buy matters and has an impact,” Carter said.
Of course, there are more aspects to the practice of “ethical shopping”. For those who are interested in knowing more about fast fashion and our responsibility as customers, Carter and Zoe will be elaborating on this topic during CAFE’s incoming club meetings.