December: Ending Fast Fashion


It’s Leah, the Live Green! Social Media Engagement Intern. I am excited to share with you everything that is happening this month! 

December’s social media campaign, Ending Fast Fashion, will offer insight into the evolution, impact and cost of the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion is known as the mass production of clothes that represent the latest trends at high speeds and low costs to maximize profits. This month we will be providing insight into accessible alternatives to fast fashion. These may include: thrift shopping, up-cycling, donating unwanted clothing, finding versatile pieces, and purchasing from sustainable brands. Read on to learn more about the fast fashion industry’s evolution, impact and cost, and how to find accessible alternatives to combat those concerns.

Investopedia / Laura Porter

The fast fashion industry began during the Industrial Revolution when new textile machines, factories and clothing made in bulk began to hit the market. The first sewing machine, patented in 1846, was a massive contribution to the fall of clothing prices and increased wide-scale clothing manufacturing. Moving forward to the 1960s, a rapid increase in fast fashion trends emerged. Fashion brands found themselves needing to find ways to keep up with the market demands, which led to textile mills opening across the world. It was indefinite when fast fashion officially became the new fashion industry, however, over time it is evident how the phenomenon caught on. For more information about the evolution of fast fashion, check out the “Fashion History Lesson: The Origins of Fast Fashion” article on

Fast fashion has an impact on our environment, economy and society. Regarding the environment, fast fashion consumes massive amounts of water. The fashion industry is the second largest industrial consumer of water, requiring about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton t-shirt. In turn, the industry also contributes to being the second largest water polluter due to textile dye entering waterways. 

Fast fashion is connected to a number of societal challenges as well. According to “Fast Fashion Getting Faster” written by Emma ross, the fast fashion industry is responsible for about 75 million factory workers worldwide, and it is estimated that less than 2% actually are making a living wage. Many of these workers are working 16-hour days, 7 days a week. Not only are workers impacted by an intense work week and low pay but they’re also exposed to around 8000 synthetic chemicals which have been known to lead to cancer. In addition, many working conditions include factories with structural issues. For example, an incident in 2013 at the Rana Plaza Factory resulted in the death of 1,110 people and injury of over 2,500 due to expired safeguards.

Getty Images / Martin Bernetti 

As a society, we have many obstacles in the way to a fully sustainable fashion industry, however, there are many different alternatives to fast fashion, such as thrift shopping, up-cycling, searching for sustainable brands, and creating a capsule wardrobe. Thrift shopping has many benefits that benefit our environment, economy and society. 

Thrift shops keep clothes out of landfills by accepting donations that can then give items a second life. Since the clothing donated is secondhand, the prices usually go down as well! Thrift stores also often support local charities. Profits that are made from purchases are often given back to the community or cause. The next time you think about getting rid of some old clothes, take them to a local thrift store. If you’re wanting a new shopping spree, check out a local thrift store for some vintage clothing pieces. Be sure to check out to locate your closest thrift store.

Up-cycling is another great alternative to consider when you’re wanting a refresh in your closet. This can be as easy as cutting old jeans into a new pair of shorts or recreating old t-shirts into reusable grocery bags. There are many ways to up-cycle clothes into new forms and give them the second life they deserve. Be sure to check out the “Upcycling Clothes: 7 Creative Ways to Repurpose Your Old Clothes” article on the website to learn more creative ways to up-cycle your old clothes. 

Looking out for sustainable clothing brands is another great opportunity to help reduce the impacts of fast fashion. However, it may seem hard to distinguish what characteristics make a brand sustainable. Here are five questions to help you through the process of evaluating sustainability in brands: 

Where are the clothes made? 

What materials are used? 

Are they recycling? 

How are the clothes packaged and delivered? 

Are they giving back to the community? 

Each of these questions will help you discover and learn more about brand ethics to see if they are a good fit for your sustainable needs. To learn more about what makes a brand sustainable, be sure to check out “5 Things to Look for in a Sustainable Fashion Brand” on 

A capsule wardrobe is another great alternative to fast fashion that includes a set of interchangeable clothing pieces that align with many different settings and events. This sustainable wardrobe uplifts your closet by containing many timeless pieces that will last through several decades without going out of style. This is also a great way to save some extra cash due to the versatility of a capsule wardrobe. To learn more about capsule wardrobes and more specifically how to build one, check out “What is a Capsule Wardrobe” on 

Regarding sustainable fashion happenings at ISU, Dr. Rachel Eike, an Assistant Professor in the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design Program at Iowa State University, and 2021 recipient of the Rising Star Award sustains focus on the area of “Discreet Design” to address environmental sustainability. Dr. Eike describes discreet design as a way to find more environmentally friendly and functional clothing pieces. As a part of the design process, it is important to think about the whole lifespan of each piece from the textile dye being used to the working conditions where the piece is then created – and even the waste fabric that remains after the production of a garment. In 2019, Dr. Eike led a project that collected and shredded textile waste from campus textile studios and labs and made it available to ISU beef nutrition farm for animal bedding.

As well as research and operational initiatives, a number of student experiences connected to sustainable fashion are also offered at Iowa State. Through various campus and community connections, students are able to participate in clothing swaps and peer-to-peer donation events. Students can also take courses focused on sustainable fashion, such as AMD:372 Sourcing and Global Issues, and take part in fashion career development opportunities through leadership, entrepreneurship and community engagement experiences including the annual Iowa State Fashion Show.

As the year moves forward, keep in mind the affects that fast fashion can have on our environment, society, economy. There are so many alternatives that can keep your fashion in tune with the recent trends that also keep sustainability in mind as well. Stay tuned for a month of tips, resources, connections and “did you know” stories and posts on our social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, as we round out this month’s campaign. And stay tuned for January’s Eliminating Footprints campaign.


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