The Real Reason You Should Rethink Your Next Fashion Splurge

The 14-million-pound consequence of keeping up with the latest trends.
May 28, 2015·
Kelly Bryant is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer covering fashion, pop culture, and parenting for a variety of national publications.

Fast fashion is hard to resist. Considering the affordable price tags, these retailers leave consumers feeling as though they can live like kings, queens, or contestants on The Bachelor—rarely having to wear the same thing twice. But that very notion is paving the way to a larger problem: the impact of disposable clothing.

The True Cost is a fashion documentary that’s taking the industry to task on a number of dangerous labor and environmental issues, and much of the trouble lies in the fast fashion category.

Case in point: An item of clothing from one of these brands lasts in a woman’s wardrobe for an average of five weeks.

“We have young girls today, on a Saturday afternoon, that whether they are on Fifth Avenue in New York or Oxford Street in London or Via del Corso in Rome, they just go and buy a dress for a party and then they discard it,” says Livia Firth, an executive producer of the film. “Women my age, middle-class women, they will go to a fast fashion brand to buy the latest look, a coat or trousers, without even really caring for the garment that they’re buying. Whether that garment lasts a season or more, they don’t really think about it.”

An estimation offered by the Environmental Protection Agency says the average individual throws away 70 pounds of clothing each year, which generates 14.3 million pounds of textile waste. So not only are people tossing their goods; they’re not recycling them either.

Firth, who serves as creative director for Eco-Age, a brand consultancy working with companies to increase growth through sustainability, asks consumers to do one simple thing before they make their next purchase.

“If you could actually stop for one minute and think, ‘Do I really need a pink coat?’ and ‘Will I wear it next year? Will I wear it in 10 years’ time?’, you will be surprised how many times you think, ‘Uh, no.’ So why would you buy it? Because it’s cheap.”