Opinion: Forever 21's bankruptcy forces us to confront the reality of fast fashion

Fast fashion is an issue that students can actively work to solve

The crowd favorite brand known for slapping slogans like "Let's Taco Bout It" and "Good Vibes or Good Bye" on otherwise trendy pieces of clothing, Forever 21, recently announced its bankruptcy. 

The largest reason cited for Forever 21’s bankruptcy is a shift in consumer attitudes away from physical mall shopping toward the online space. However, I believe that Forever 21’s bankruptcy should also revolutionize the way we buy clothes so that we are more aware of the consequences of our purchases. 

Brands like Forever 21, Zara and H&M have been criticized recently for their contribution to the world of fast fashion. Fast fashion is a business model that uses cheap materials and labor to rapidly-produce trendy clothes.

Fast fashion is a byproduct of an ever-changing, social media-fueled era. With fashion bloggers on Instagram setting trends weekly, clothing at stores must match the pace at which the styles are changing. 

The impacts of fast fashion are broad-reaching and long-lasting. 

“There is a major shift that’s going on with a lot of factors such as rising awareness, trade wars, growing concern with environmental issues. The consumer is far more aware than they were even five years ago," said Dennita Sewell, a professor of practice at the School of Art.

The first impact of fast fashion on our future is on the environment. The apparel industry represents 6.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide. If nothing is changed, it is estimated that these emissions will rise by more than 60% in the next 10 years.  

Human rights issues as related to fast fashion gained worldwide attention in 2013 when a building in Bangladesh housing garment workers for various companies collapsed despite workers' concerns. The labor abuse in these factories range from poor wages, being denied maternity benefits, firing pregnant workers, workplace sexual harassment and even forced overtime. 

Only with changing consumer attitudes will there be changes in the fast fashion industry. 

"We have seen consumers shifting to buying second-hand clothing, a shift that has pushed companies to also shift their production methods," Sewell said.

I enjoy going to Goodwill, but I know that is not a sentiment shared by many of my peers. There are also second-hand apps like Depop and Poshmark that make buying second-hand clothes easier and more accessible to the average college student.

ASU is also working towards making sustainable, second-hand fashion more accessible to us as college students. Recently, there was a University Street Market hosted on the Student Services Building lawn, which will also be coming back to campus on Dec. 5. The market has a curated selection of second-hand clothes right on campus.

This isn't to say that we should stop buying new clothes entirely. Fast fashion companies like Zara recently announced more sustainable ways of making their clothes. 

There are also more companies that have been founded on a sustainable basis. Websites like Good On You make knowledge of various company practices more accessible. By being educated consumers, students can make a beneficial impact on our society and environment.

Climate change becomes a more pressing issue every day, and action needs to be taken now. When governments won't take action against companies, we must take things into our own hands. 

Students need to stop getting sucked into the world of fast fashion and trendy clothes and be smart and educated about where our clothes come from. Forever 21's bankruptcy should shift our attitudes toward brands that care about their employees and the environment. 


Reach the columnist at alshah2@asu.edu or follow @aasheeni on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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