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2020 Diet: Eliminating Fast Fashion

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We have all heard of the dangers of fast food, but what about fast fashion? With an increased spotlight on ethical and sustainable clothing, A UNL Professor says it’s important for you to be educated as consumers. 

Sandra Starkey, an assistant professor in the Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design School, has made ethical, sustainable and minimal waste apparel an integral part of her research in recent years. She uses her position to educate students on the topic, but would love for the general public to become knowledgable as well.

Ethical clothing is an overarching term used to describe fashion that is produced in a way that cares for the people and environment that it is manufactured in.

“Ethical fashion is designed to be fashionable with an emphasis on product development processes that also consider the impact on both environmental and human resources,” Starkey said. “Sustainable clothing falls under the umbrella of ethical fashion.” When clothing is sustainable it is made with the environment in mind – from the energy used, where the materials are sourced, recyclability of the packaging, etc.

So why don’t all stores work to produce more ethically? It’s simple – cost. Starkey says producing clothes ethically and sustainably is “more expensive and it affects the bottom line -all about profit.” Ethically made clothing is more expensive because the cost for fabrics are higher, they produce smaller amounts of products and their employees are paid fair wage which is generally more. This is why companies and consumers have maintained their fast-fashion culture.

“Fast fashion allows customers at all price points to be able to purchase/acquire fashionable items at about the same time, Starkey said. “Because fashion is more accessible and with a much shorter turnaround time, the fashion cycle speeds up. This results in a large quantity of inexpensive and cheaply made clothing items that are discarded more frequently.”

This kind of production can negatively impact aspects of our environment. It results in waste of materials and poor labor practices.

Starkey believes it is in the consumers’ hands to know where their clothing is coming from and the impact it makes on our world. “It is our responsibility in all facets of the industry to lessen the negative impact on the environment and human resources. Resources are limited. We should all do our part for ourselves as well as for future generations.”

If you think it’s time to start a diet from fast-fashion, researching the stores you shop at is key. Starkey says that “many stores adopt sustainable practices and it is incorporated into their mission statement as well as their branding. Many companies are deliberately transparent about their product development and manufacturing processes and list it with their product offerings so consumers know how and where things are made.”

She does warn however that because it is not a requirement to disclose this information “many companies are not transparent.” There is no one monitoring the materials and practices of clothing companies so many do disclose where they are resourcing their products or who is making them. 

Starkey is proud to see “increasing people becoming more aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion and how we are using our resources to obtain these items. Social media and the internet play a huge role in disseminating information about these topics.” She plans to continue educating her students and hopes others begin to educate themselves.