The Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About These Things

Written by Katharine Martinko

The industry’s ridiculous greenwashing campaigns distract from the other nasty truths about what’s going on behind the production scenes.

The fast fashion industry tries hard to make shoppers believe that it’s sustainable, spending loads of money on massive PR campaigns to showcase green efforts and launch new ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ lines of clothing. This, however, isan impossible claim because the consumerism and rate of production required for fast fashion to be viable is too great and intrinsically unsustainable. Any claims to the contrary are mere greenwashing.

The fashion industry, however, has many reasons to hide behind its PR campaigns and redirect consumer focus toward green efforts, whether useless or not. There are so many other, nasty things going on behind the scenes that greenwashing at least serves as a distraction. The Huffington Post recently posted a list of “5 Truths the Fashion Industry doesn’t want you to know,” all of which are deeply disturbing (and yet not surprising) facts about the sketchy production methods behind those trendy-looking clothes on the mannequins at stores such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, TJ Maxx, and J.Crew, among countless others.

I’ll share 3 of the five ‘truths’ that particularly resonated with me, but I urge you to take a look at the original article, which is very informative.

1. Fast fashion clothes are full of toxic chemicals, including lead.

A number of retailers have signed agreements to reduce the amounts of heavy metals in their clothes, but they haven’t followed through. Many chains continue to sell lead-contaminated purses, shoes, and belts that are well above the legal limit.

I’ll add that Greenpeace has done a fair amount of work in this area,launching a campaign last winter called “Little Monsters,” a phrase that describes the vile chemical remnants clinging to new clothes long after they’ve left the factories. The effect that these chemicals can have on wearers, particularly children, is serious.

Greenpeace tested 12 major clothing brands (a total of 82 children’s textile products), including companies such as American Apparel, Disney, Adidas, Burberry, Primark, GAP, Puma, C&A and Nike. Every brand contained toxic chemicals perfluorated chemicals (PFCs), phthalates, nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), and cadmium.

2. Beading and sequins indicate child labour.

A large number of overseas-produced clothes are made out of factories in people’s homes, where homeworkers living in single-room slum dwellings with their families struggle to complete as many pieces as they can. Often children help their parents to do the intricate beadwork, perhaps because their little fingers are nimble, but also because the more pieces finished, the more money will come in.

Apparently the machines that can do this sort of work are extremely expensive and must be purchased by the garment factory, which is unlikely if cheaper hand labour is available.

3. The fashion industry wants you to feel “out of trend” immediately.

With designers creating new styles and flooding stores with new products on a daily or weekly basis, it’s impossible to keep up. No shopper will ever feel that she or he has ‘found’ that timeless style because it changes so fast.

The fast fashion business model is built on selling high volume of cheap products that are marginally marked up, meaning that stores have to sell a lot in order to profit, so they’ll do anything to keep people buying. Perpetuating a constant sense of dissatisfaction with the level of one’s trendiness is a model that’s shown to work.

It’s best to stay away. Shop second-hand, buy new from privately owned clothing stores or designer boutiques, buy fewer and higher quality items, or rework undesirable/unfashionable pieces if you’re handy with a sewing machine. There are plenty of alternatives out there, as long as you’re willing to turn away from the addictive ease of fast fashion shopping.

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Azaima A.
Azaima A3 years ago

thrift shops often benefit good causes too

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Think about what beauty should be

Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

I can always smell the chemicals when I walk into many of these kinds of stores. So gross.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

I don't care what the latest trend is. I wear what I like and what feels comfortable.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G3 years ago

good to know, thanks

Ala Morales
Ala Morales3 years ago

I don't follow the trend. I keep my old quality clothes which I enjoy wearing. Today's clothes are of poor quality and dies change color after couple of washes especially black..Same for shoes and purses. If I need to buy something I shop at second hand stores.

Nancy Hatcher
Nancy Hatcher3 years ago

"No shopper will ever feel that she or he has ‘found’ that timeless style because it changes so fast." I take exception to that comment............"No shopper" is a blanket statement that is not accurate!

I certainly don't "feel" the need to constantly try to find that "timeless style" and yes, there are "timeless styles" that don't need to be updated every 3 - 6 months. What has happened is the clothing industry has targeted teenagers into believing that a new clothing style will make them more popular. Sadly, we know clothes don't make the person but that doesn't seem have been taught to our young.

I, also, buy used clothing. Most of the time I find real "timeless" clothing that still have a lot of use. I do draw a limit on undergarments and shoes, mostly because I wear an uncommon size - 9.5 wide. They are hard enough to find in a first use store and when I do I want to break them in to my foot rather that someone else's!

Lorraine Andersen

thanks for posting. we need to learn how to dress to be ourselves not fashion plates wearing the latest trends

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thanks for posting.