Fast fashion is an incredibly popular shopping choice amongst most college students. That is because it is accessible, cheap, and produced fast.
While fast fashion may seem like a fashion lover’s paradise, it is very harmful to the environment. Most clothing items purchased from sites like Shein or Zara are made of fabrics that take years to decompose, and are made in sweatshops that involve cheap and possible child labor. They also produce significant greenhouse gas emissions. Even though a lot of University of Maryland students know this, they still continue to buy from these stores.
Freshman kinesiology major Julia Brock said in an interview that she shops at “Amazon, multiple times a week, Zara, a few times a year, Shein, few times a year.” Brock mentioned that it is both appealing and dangerous how accessible and quick the websites and their products are.
She mentioned that another pro of buying from websites like Shein, for example, is that the clothes are cheap and she doesn’t have to worry about ruining them. Brock said that when she is looking for ‘going-out’ clothes, these websites are appealing because “you don’t know what’s going to happen to your clothes, so it’s kind of better to not wear valuable or expensive clothing out.”
This mindset is shared by a lot of female students at UMD.
Another freshman kinesiology major, Sarah Allen, said that she prefers fast fashion websites like Shein because she, can get a lot of things quickly. College students are always on the go, so with many different events happening all the time, fast fashion makes tons of different styles available at a moment’s notice.
Allen said that she recently ordered white sweatpants for $15 on Amazon. Allen believes that college kids in particular shop from these stores because “being on their own for the first time, a lot of college students are starting to use their own money, and shopping at more expensive places is often difficult for them.”
Getting a job on top of adjusting to college life in general can be super difficult, so money may be tight for a lot of students.
While we may be on a budget, and cheap clothes may seem like the only option, there are tons of ways to shop sustainably without spending a fortune.
‘Going-out tops’ are especially popular on fast fashion sites, and young women are always looking for a new top to wear out on the weekends. Tops by Taylor is an example of a brand that is both sustainable and affordable for college students.
The owner of Tops by Taylor, Taylor Vetterlein, studied Textile Development at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and minored in Sustainability and Ethics. Not only does she run her own small business, she also works full time in the fashion industry in NYC.
Vetterlein had to wear a back brace because of her scoliosis starting in sixth grade, so her clothing choices were limited. This inspired her to start her own company, where she designs “all the cute tops” she wanted to wear when she couldn’t. She loves the “total control and creative freedom” that comes along with running her own business.
Vetterlein thinks that college-aged girls shop on fast fashion websites because: “We are always looking for the new trend the latest social media influencer is wearing. Unfortunately this has conditioned our generation, Gen Z, to view clothes as disposable.”
Vetterlein also discussed how “we also cannot resist a Shein little black dress for $9.00.” She believes that what makes fast fashion so dangerous is that it “is often inexpensive and not constructed to last.” So, consumers view it as disposable.
When asked if the problem of fast fashion could be solved, Vetterlein said that they way to change the way consumers shop is to educate them on the harm fast fashion causes and how to break the consumption cycle. Vetterlein said that Tops by Taylor is a better option to shop at because “We pride ourselves on quick response and delivery of our products. We have a limited number of pieces per style to ensure we are not contributing to pre-consumer waste.” They also have an always-refreshing inventory and an expansive “made in the USA” section.
More examples of sustainable brands that college students can shop at include Everlane and Organic Basics. Though they may be a bit more pricey, these two websites sell clothes that are made of sustainable and built to last materials.
Both brands invest in quality fabric, have good work environments, and are actively working to help the planet. Investing in clothing basics that will last months, if not years, will keep bank accounts (and the environment) more stable in the long-run.