In the closet of any girl aged 14-24, at least one item by the popular fast fashion brand Forever 21 can be found. Despite this, the retail giant recently declared bankruptcy and might be closing some of its 815 stores soon. Since the creation of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores have seen a drop in sales. Since 2017, many stores such as Barneys and Toys “R” Us have gone bankrupt or begun to close stores, and Forever 21 appears to be no exception to this trend. This isn’t a reason to pity the brand; however, as Forever 21 and other fashion brands are an environmental and human rights detriment that consumers should be encouraged to boycott.
Forever 21 has been dubbed by many as the official “party clothes” supplier for college girls. This means that the clothes are cheap, trendy and easily replaceable. The store’s clothes aren’t meant to last more than one season’s use; many don’t even make it that far and end up in a landfill after a half dozen wears. This is the cycle of the fast fashion industry. Clothing is made in factories by underage and underpaid workers. These employees are primarily female, fitting into the target demographic for the clothing that they’re forced to mass-produce.
Not only is fast fashion a human rights issue, but it has a shocking environmental impact. Every year, 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills in the United States alone. This statistic is staggering, particularly in an era with so many environmental movements. The phrase “save the turtles” has become a popular slogan accompanying the movement toward the banning of plastic straws. Foregoing the use of plastic straws has been an easy sacrifice for many, but most aren’t yet ready to accept the impact their retail shopping habits have on the environment as well. Runoff from the dyes of clothing in landfills pollutes water sources, not to mention the large amounts of water required to produce the clothing in the first place.
Of course, Forever 21 isn’t the only culprit of the fast-fashion crisis. Online brands such as Cupshe, Romwe and many more are also to blame, and consumers should seek alternatives whenever possible. An argument could be made that the average young adult shopping for trendy clothes doesn’t have the money to shop at ethically sourced and fair trade clothing stores, but they have other, even cheaper options. “Thrifting” has become popular among many Instagram and YouTube influencers. This may seem easier said than done for those who live in an area free of thrift stores stocked with trendy clothes, but they aren’t entirely out of luck. There are many online options that provide an excellent solution to this issue. These online thrifting options include Poshmark, Depop and Thredup. All of these stores give clothing otherwise headed for the landfill a second chance at life.
Many people assume that, as an individual, they’ll have little to no impact on the environment by shopping at retail stores, or they don’t consider what impact they’re having at all. In reality, every consumer makes an impact. No change is too small, whether it be making a trip to Goodwill instead of a local mall or selling old clothes to an online thrifting outlet rather than simply throwing them away. Forever 21 may close their doors in the upcoming months, but this is still only the beginning of the fight against fast fashion.
Georgia is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact her at email@example.com.