Fashion needs to slow down

Meredith Abdelnour, Arcade Editor

earth dressed up in fashion
The fashion industry must adopt practices that are more sustainable for the planet. (Emma Vaughters)

Flimsy tie-front sweaters, Bridgerton-esque corsets, tennis skirts — fashion trends this year came in and out of the public consciousness in the blink of an eye, the usual speed of the trend cycle accelerated by TikTok influencers and a pandemic-induced boom in online shopping. 

The fashion industry moves rapidly. Consumers now buy five times the amount of clothes as in they did in 1980, and go through them quickly — the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing per year. Most of this ends up in our landfills, as only 15% of these clothes are recycled. 

Part of this is due to the influence of fast fashion, an unsustainable model where brands put out hundreds of new styles a week to keep up with quick trend cycles. Perhaps the epitome of this is SHEIN, an online retailer that prides itself on releasing over 1,000 new items daily. Youtubers and influencers will often post “SHEIN Hauls,” spending hundreds of dollars on low-quality clothes that will likely end up in the landfill — it is estimated that 50% of fast fashion is thrown away after less than a year. 

Although unsafe working conditions and dire environmental impacts are an open secret in the world of fast fashion, consumers don’t want to be guilt-stricken every time they buy a new pair of jeans. To combat this, companies often greenwash, exaggerating their eco-friendly practices in order to make consumers feel better about their purchases. Greenwashing prioritizes appearing “green” and “eco-friendly” over

Even SHEIN, considered one of the worst offenders, has a page on their website filled with vague language and empty promises of social responsibility. 

Being aware of fast fashion is the first step, but what can students on a budget really do? Many companies with sustainable practices and transparency are unattainable for college students when a pair of jeans costs upwards of $200. Professor Nicole Katin recommends students thrift and donate. “If they are gonna keep buying clothes, then keep giving them away once the trend is done,” said Katin. Organizations like Tulane Trash to Treasure make donating on campus easy and accessible, and Rags to Resources aims to educate students about sustainable fashion. Some students use GroupMe to exchange clothes secondhand. There are some less expensive ethical brands, such as Girlfriend Collective, CHNGE and Honest Basics, as well as many places to thrift near campus. 

The current state of the fashion industry is disastrous for the environment, but options like thrifting, buying investment pieces to last, sharing clothes with friends and working to reduce overall consumption can make a huge difference. This doesn’t mean you can never buy a trendy clothing item again — but in the words of designer Vivienne Westwood, strive to “buy less, choose well, make it last.”