The Damaging Psychological Effects of Fast Fashion

The Damaging Psychological Effects of Fast Fashion

In Fashion & Culture, Fashion Features, Sustainable Fashion by Melanie Shaw

The term “fast fashion” refers to clothing designs that are quickly brought to market at a relatively low cost. The fast fashion industry is a major contributor to the world’s pollution problem, as it takes an enormous amount of resources to produce its products.

The most obvious environmental impact of fast fashion is the enormous amount of textile waste it produces. In the United States alone, 15 million of used textile waste is generated each year, and less than 20% of that is recycled or donated. The rest ends up in landfills, where it takes up valuable space and releases harmful chemicals into the environment.

But the environmental impacts of fast fashion go beyond textile waste. 

Are clothes a form of self-expression, or an attempt to camouflage your true self? What do you look like? What is your idea of style? 

These are important questions and their answers are deeper than you think and may be tied to the fast fashion industry. Let’s dive into an in-depth list of the harmful psychological effects of fast fashion.

1. Fast Fashion Encourages Consumerism

In a culture where you’re bombarded with advertising and social media telling you that what you look like is intrinsically linked to how much you are worth, it’s no wonder that fast fashion has become so popular. 

It’s cheap, brightly colored, and built to last only a few months of wear before needing to be replaced. It promises that if you can only keep up with the latest trends, then you will fit in and make friends, and attain happiness.

Fast fashion retailers are experts at marketing to their target consumers, and they often use tactics that encourage excessive spending. They link the concept of new clothes with the emotional need that humans have to fit in, and that is a recipe for disaster. 

Every year, thousands of people get themselves into crippling credit card debt just to fuel their fast fashion addiction. The advertising tells us that we are missing something, and that (conveniently) only they have the missing piece we need.


2. It Feeds Into a Culture of Disposability

Because fast fashion is so affordable, it’s easy to view clothing as disposable items. We’re more likely to buy something new if it’s only a few dollars, even if we don’t really need it, and we’re less likely to take care of our clothes when we know we can replace them easily.

This disposable mindset not only creates mountains of textile waste, but it also encourages us to be constantly seeking out new things instead of appreciating what we have. This mentality of materialism, instant gratification and lack of appreciation for the things we own bleeds into all other areas of our lives. 

Obesity, substance abuse, gambling – these are all linked to the same root cause. We are filling an emotional void with physical things.


3. Fast Fashion Promotes an Unrealistic Standard of Beauty

The fashion industry has long been criticized for promoting unrealistic standards of beauty, and fast fashion is the main proponent of that.

Teenage girls are the main target market for fast fashion retailers. Many retailers use extremely thin models in their advertising, and their clothes are designed to compliment only one body type, which can give consumers the message that they need to conform to one type of appearance. 

This can lead to body image issues, particularly among young people who are still developing their self-image.


4. It Can Be Linked to Poor Working Conditions

Unfortunately, the low costs associated with fast fashion often come at the expense of workers’ rights. In many cases, fast fashion garments are produced in developing countries where workers are paid very low wages and work in poor conditions.

These workers are often forced to work long hours for little pay, and they may not have access to basic amenities like clean water and bathroom breaks. So the harmful psychological effects are not limited to consumers – the mental and physical health of those who make the clothes is being jeopardized too.


5. Environmental Degradation

The production of fast fashion garments often takes a heavy toll on the environment. Textile production is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and the majority of our clothes are now made from synthetic fibers like polyester, which are derived from petroleum.

Not only does this put a strain on the world’s limited supply of fossil fuels, but it also releases harmful chemicals into the air and water during the manufacturing process. These environmental impacts can lead to health problems for both workers and local residents.


6. Fast Fashion Hurts Animals

Fast fashion impacts animals. The production of animal-based fibers like wool and leather often involves cruel treatment of animals. In the wool industry, for example, sheep are often crammed into crowded pens and sheared in ways that can cause them pain and injury.

And in the leather industry, cows are routinely confined to small spaces and given hormones to speed up their growth. This can lead to health problems and a shortened lifespan.

The plastic and synthetic fibers in low-quality garments and accessories like sunglasses end up in landfills and don’t break down. Microplastics in the environment slowly poison animals and wildlife, impacting ecosystems over the long term. 


7. It Supports Unsustainable Practices

The fast fashion industry is built on unsustainable practices, from the way its garments are produced to the way they’re sold. For example, most fast fashion retailers sell their clothes at prices that are below what it costs to produce them, which means they’re not making a profit on each item.

This business model is not sustainable in the long run, and it often leads to cut corners in the production process. This can result in lower-quality garments and even dangerous working conditions for workers.


8. Fast Fashion Undermines Fair Trade Practices

The fast fashion industry relies on cheap labor to keep costs low, but this often comes at the expense of workers’ rights. In many cases, fast fashion garments are produced in developing countries where workers are paid very low wages and work in poor conditions.

This hurts not only the workers themselves, but also undermines fair trade practices that help to ensure fair wages and working conditions for all workers.


9. It Encourages Over-Consumption

The fast fashion industry relies on customers buying more clothes than they need. This encourages consumers to view clothing as disposable and leads to a throwaway culture.

Not only is this bad for the environment, but it also encourages people to buy things they don’t really want or need. This can lead to debt and financial problems down the road.


10. It’s Not Really That Cheap

While fast fashion garments may be cheaper than those from traditional retailers, they’re often not as cheap as they seem. In many cases, the low prices are due to the use of cheap labor and materials, which can result in lower-quality garments.

And because fast fashion garments are often not made to last, they may need to be replaced more often, which can end up costing you more in the long run.

If you’re looking for affordable fashion that doesn’t sacrifice quality or style, consider shopping at consignment stores or thrift shops. You can find great deals on gently-used clothes that will last longer and look just as good as new.


What are your thoughts on fast fashion? Do you think it’s something we should be supporting? Let us know in the comments!

About Melanie Shaw

Melanie Shaw is a fashion and lifestyle writer who has worked in the fashion industry in PR and communications, helping brands launch their latest products and collections.

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