Despite the fact that most people know that fast fashion doesn’t have a great track record for labor practices or the environment, it remains steadfastly popular. Fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara sell cute clothes for much cheaper than department store brands. It can be a tough habit to break.
Over the years, fast fashion brands have been busted for using child labor
, using factories that have majorly unsafe working conditions
, and even unpaid labor. Because fast fashion clothes aren’t necessarily made to last, they may fall apart or go out of style quickly and get thrown away, filling up landfills around the world. According to a 2016 survey
, the average American tosses out a staggering 81 pounds of clothes each year.
This past year, fast fashion retailers made headlines for all the wrong reasons, from unpaid wages at Zara to Forever 21 ripping off a fundraiser shirt. Here are six of the biggest fast fashion fails from the last year. May we all shop more sustainably
Zara Workers Left Notes Calling Attention to Unpaid Labor
In November, the Spanish clothing retailer Zara was rocked by news reports that workers in Istanbul had left damning notes inside the clothes they made. Zara shoppers in Turkey found notes that read in part: “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” the Associated Press
reported. The notes also encouraged shoppers to pressure Zara to pay the workers for their labor.
The notes were reportedly left by people who work in the Bravo Tekstil factory in Turkey, where Zara and other fast fashion clothing brands are made, according to Fast Company
. Zara’s parent company, Inditex, told Fast Company that the factory in question shut down last year, and the owner of the factory disappeared. The workers who make Zara’s clothes in Turkey didn’t get paid when the factory suddenly shut down, but Zara still sold the clothes, turning a profit on items that were made using unpaid labor. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty)
A Swedish Power Plant Burns H&M Clothes
Fast fashion is terrible for the environment: Tons of clothes end up in landfills each year. Fast fashion clothes are also so valueless once their owners are through with them that they may as well be set on fire.
That’s almost exactly what one power plant in Sweden has been doing with H&M clothes, according to reports that emerged this winter.
In November, Bloomberg
reported that as part of its plan to become fossil-fuel free by 2020, a power plant in Vasteras, Sweden burns wood and trash, some of which comes from discarded clothing from the H&M’s central warehouse in Eskilstuna, Sweden. H&M Sweden’s head of communications, Johanna Dahl, told Bloomberg that only clothing that is “not safe” to be worn gets tossed out and ultimately sent to the power plant. At least the clothes are going to good use! (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)
H&M Gets Called Out for Transparency Move
H&M’s new brand, Arket, seemed to make a move toward transparency this year by making public each factory it uses for the creation of its clothes. Given that many shoppers are concerned about the ethical treatment of workers and environmental impacts of the clothes they buy, listing factories is a decent idea. But Quartz
notes that the list of factories doesn’t actually do much to truly inform consumers about the ethics of the brand.
On the Arket site, shoppers can see the location and name of the factory for clothing items as they shop for them. However, it amounts to little more than a PR move, since consumers would still have to do considerable amounts of their own research in order to determine whether or not each factory holds itself to high ethical standards. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)
Forever 21 Sues Gucci
It seems like Forever 21 gets sued for ripping off designers' clothes about as often as its stores get new shipments of party dresses ‒ which is to say, a lot. But over the summer, Forever 21 filed a lawsuit of its own against Gucci. Why? Because Forever 21 wanted to stop Gucci from suing Forever 21! What a mess.
reported in June that Gucci sent a cease-and-desist letter to Forever 21 in 2016, telling them to stop using Gucci’s trademarked red-blue-red and green-red-green striped patterns. Forever 21 then filed its lawsuit against Gucci this summer, which read in part: “Many clothing and accessory items adorned with decorative stripes colored blue-red-blue or green-red-green are sold by countless third parties. The colors red, blue, and green, and stripe designs, are among the most favorite, popular and widely used colors and design features on clothing.”
A rep for Gucci responded to the suit in a statement provided to The Fashion Law
, saying the lawsuit would “not deter Gucci from pursuing its own claims against Forever 21 as part of its ongoing commitment to the vigorous protection of its valuable intellectual property rights and distinctive brand identity.” (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)
Forever 21 Gets Sued
Forever 21 did indeed get sued in the last year, and in at least one case it actually wasn’t over stealing designs. A former Forever 21 employee in Providence, Rhode Island sued the company after a surveillance video of her using the bathroom at work was posted to a porn website, Racked
reported in November. The suit asked for $2 million for “extreme emotional damages and attendant physical damages.” According to the lawsuit, there was a security camera installed for no apparently good reason in the store’s single stall employee restroom. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Forever 21 Gets Accused of Ripping Off a Fundraiser T-Shirt
As we’ve established already, Forever 21 gets into legal trouble over its designs a lot. But one particular instance of the company’s copycatting this year was way too messed up to ignore. In September, Forever 21 came under fire for copying a shirt designed by Word, a women-owned brand agency in Los Angeles, that was created to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
Word’s shirt was a white tee with the word “woman” translated into nine languages. Soon after, Forever 21 started selling a white tank-top with the word “woman” in five languages, all of which overlapped with the translations on Word’s design. The description accompanying Word’s shirt on the agency’s website read, “represent our belief that feminism and human rights should be intersectional. Women from all races, cultures, religions & economic backgrounds deserve access to safe medical care,” according to Fashionista
. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty)
Are you trying to cut back on fast fashion in 2018? Tell us how @britandco!
(Featured image by Drew Angerer/Getty)