Closing the loop on fast fashion

Popular clothing companies need to do more to make the manufacturing of clothing more ethical and environmentally friendly.


by Anna Ronan, Design Editor

When you walk into a store like Forever 21, Zara or H&M you may notice one thing— it’s constantly changing. Every time you walk in, there are always new items on the racks.

This is because most popular stores like this use fast fashion. Fast fashion takes popular trends in from the runways and onto racks in a short period of time, sometimes as quickly as two weeks. However, the technique of fast fashion causes a higher consuming of clothes, leading people to quickly throw out clothes. I think fast fashion needs to change because the environmental impact and horrible conditions manufacturers work in are unacceptable in today’s time.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, people are replacing their clothes so quickly because of the low prices and greater availability of new trends. These styles come straight from the runway, push out other styles that have been on the racks for a short amount of time and immediately put them in a landfill.

Forever 21 was one of my favorite places to go until very recently. Everything they sold was on trend, cheap and accessible. I grew up idolizing stores like this because I could afford them. I knew in the back of my mind that there had to be a catch — little did I know it was under my nose while I continued shopping.

The catch is that while the clothes are cheap, they are made by workers that live on basically nothing, and production and trashing of these clothes has a huge impact on the environment.According to the U.S. National Labor Committee, some workers in Chinese sweatshops that make most of the clothes dispersed in fast fashion companies live on anywhere from 1218 cents a day. As well as the poor conditions for workers, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act states that many of the textile manufacturing plants in the U.S. are considered hazardous waste sites.

I remember coming back from a Forever 21 shopping spree with my mom, going on the Youtube app on my phone and randomly clicking on a video about fast fashion’s impact on the environment. To say the least, I was horrified.

Stores don’t want to give up fast fashion because they want to stay relevant, but their ethics and environmental impact are shining through the constant stream of new clothes.

However, there is a much more ethical way of creating clothing — closed loop manufacturing. According to Newsweek, closed loop manufacturing is, “where a product is recycled back into almost the same product.” Essentially, that means recycling old textiles and creating a new garment out of that. If closed loop technology is used, old clothes that would typically end up in a landfill can be remade into something “in season.”

The best way to achieve this closed loop would be by recycling your clothes at certain retailers. In 2005, outerwear brand Patagonia started a program called Common Threads, promising to make all garments recyclable by 2010. Patagonia did this by putting recycling boxes in all of their store locations for the Common Threads recycling program, taking back all clothes that could be recycled into new products.

In 2009, Patagonia published an article titled “Closing the Loop A Report on Patagonia’s Common Threads Garment Recycling Program.” In the article, they stated that while they had not reached their 2010 goal yet, they were still trying their very best to get clothing recycling to be a common theme in their company.

I am working my very hardest to become more like Patagonia in my personal life. By dropping my old clothes off at donation centers and resale stores I try to make sure that my clothes go full circle.

Right now, that shirt you liked from Target may not be the most ethical choice. However, if fashion brands choose to make their companies sustainable, the loop may finally be closed.