Turning to the truth and invoking the real enemy, capitalism.
The last ten years have been marked by rapid changes in the global economy and the ease of purchasing both necessities and leisure products. They paved the way for consumerism in the US. Companies like Shein are becoming increasingly popular, providing customers with everything they need at relatively low prices. However, there is a lot of discussion about how they handle production. Even though they were founded in 2008, they have long been referred to as a fast fashion company. Since changing its name in 2015, it has become the world’s leading clothing retailer.
Fast fashion continues to grow in production. Apparel companies in the US looked for cheaper production methods and found a way to use other countries to get more money, making offshoring an extremely common practice. These companies created what are now known as “sweatshops,” which are factories with inhumane working conditions known to cause their workers long-term illness for just a fraction of the wages paid to US minimum wage workers. Not only that, but production equipment is so unregulated and dangerous that hazardous fumes, chemicals and machinery are the norm. Factories are placed in lower-class neighborhoods, taking advantage of families struggling financially.
All this with premeditation – of course. All in the name of making as much profit as possible while trying to invest as little money as possible in production and retail. Finally, one of the most well-known effects of exploitation plants and factories is chemical dumping or harmful sludge that is illegally disposed of. Soil, local ecosystems and nearby bodies of water often become polluted, entering the water supply system and damaging crops and local fauna.
We’ve gone through the negatives of fast fashion, and it’s important to be aware of them before moving on to the next point. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies that advertise themselves as anti-fashion. These are the ones that describe themselves as eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sustainable and upcycled fashion companies; sometimes referred to as slow fashion or eco-friendly brands. While this is a much needed practice in commercial companies, the reality is that most people who care about it cannot afford these products.
Inflated price tags are common because advertised products are of higher quality and have a higher production value. Sometimes up to double or triple what you would normally pay for a particular piece. While many of us would love to buy from slow fashion brands, it just isn’t realistic when you’re living on a minimum wage job, paying your monthly rent and accumulating student loan debt.
It’s also worth mentioning the lack of sizing in so many of these eco-friendly brands, making it difficult for plus-sized people to find properly fitting, sustainable clothing. I’d also like to put a special emphasis on how it’s almost impossible to find clothes that aren’t just absolutely basic. There is no hate for those who like basic fashion, but it has taken over too much of the sustainable fashion market. Goth, punk and other members of alternative subcultures have no place in this market. It’s a shame because most of us genuinely care about the environment and actively try not to contribute to harmful consumption practices.
But recently prices have been rising and XL size is still the largest size in a typical mall store. In most cases, it’s not even a true XL; fits more like a large. that’s annoying. Even though I’m not plus size, my body is so built that sometimes I need bigger clothes, but I found that shopping for clothes in malls over the past few years has been the biggest challenge for me. So I did what most of my friends and family started doing, buying clothes only from thrift stores and Shein, the infamous online fast fashion store.
People still get annoyed when they admit to buying from Shein because it’s no secret they didn’t have the best manufacturing practices. But the truth is that Shein continues to expand its line of products, ranging from room decorations to sex toys (it’s not a joke, but it’s quite funny). Whereas before reviews were often mixed in terms of product quality, now customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive, especially now compared to other fast fashion companies. Shein supplies up to size 5X and has just about every type of style you can think of. Their sister brand, ROMWE, was created exclusively for alternative fashion and is up to date with the latest trends.
So, here’s something to think about: everyone needs clothes, and if there’s a way to get decent quality cheap, then it should be allowed. The relevant sentence that applies to this anti-fashion debate is: “There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.” The truth is that until someone discloses the company’s internal working practices, we cannot be sure that what they are claiming is true. I believe that if I can find the same piece I want for much cheaper, I will not hesitate to buy it. We spend so much of our lives working, studying and saving for the necessities. No one should be ashamed to buy clothes from a brand that provides them with everything they need. No one should be ashamed, period.
Extra tip: If you want to know an extra, cost-effective way to find nice clothes, I highly recommend saving up. While it’s harder to find exactly what you’re looking for, you can still find many hidden gems. All my goth and alternate villains swear by this method and I agree with it. But know that if you ever buy fast fashion because you’re on a budget, need a size up, or just because you want to, don’t feel bad. Capitalism is the enemy here.