The “fast fashion” movement, so named for its accelerated and constant adaptation to the latest trends from the catwalk, has undoubtedly nurtured an era of intense consumerism and a mindset of single-use goods that are constantly replaced for the newest model and the latest fad. And fast fashion is often synonymous with disposable fashion, meaning clothing that is easily replaceable and that likely falls apart after a single wear or wash. In fact, consumers have more or less come to expect these results. Quantity over quality has become a new mantra here.
However, clothing that falls apart is only a side effect of a mass fast-fashion industry that’s been accused of exploiting low-wage workers in other countries while feeding the counterfeit culture and creating a number of environmentally unsustainable practices, including tons of trash from all those throw-away garments.
Whew. That’s a lot. But, for now, we will simply take a look at a few stores commonly accused of churning out both cheap and cheaply made clothing that falls apart at the flip of a switch. We’ll also supply a few practical things to keep in mind when shopping these retailers — we’ve got your back!
1. Forever 21
A great majority of shoppers would like agree Forever 21 may be the worst offender when it comes to fall-apart clothes. Wash and toss is the motto by which many shoppers have come to know this fast-fashion giant, and indeed the destination is synonymous with poor quality, wear-it-once garb that’s both cheap and cheaply made. You would be lucky if Forever 21’s pieces lasted even 21 days, some would argue. Not that all those pieces don’t look fine enough with their trendsetting, cool flair, which is why this retail powerhouse has become such a fashionable force in this segment of the industry.
Another stylish giant on the fast-fashion playing field is the online site, ASOS, which curates its own eponymous line and also sells moderately priced labels of varying quality. The brand does not carry with it quite the same fall-apart reputation as Forever 21, but there are certainly some pieces that are more cheaply made than others. BuzzFeed demonstrates just how spotty the quality can be. That said, ASOS does have an “eco edit” of eco-friendly brands and global initiatives that fit within certain criteria for sustainability. So, that means the quality is likely better and the environmental impact less severe — two very good things!
H&M is a toss-up when it comes to toss-away clothes that may or may not fall apart. The Swiss style destination is known for a much higher quality of clothing than other fast fashion retailers like Forever 21 and all the lookalike stores that remain popular in some places — think Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Hot Topic, etc. However, H&M does two things differently. First, the retailer collaborates with high-fashion designers like Alexander Wang and Karl Lagerfeld to create capsule collections that truly have more of the designer quality at accessible prices. They also proffer a Conscious-Sustainable Style collection that’s eco-aware and a Premium Quality collection with a “buy now, wear forever” mentality. And, yes, you pay a slightly higher premium for both, but the classic pieces stand the test of time (and the washing machine), and they are better for the environment as a result.
At the end of the day, you truly do get what you pay for at these fast-fashion stores. Sometimes, you can extend the short lifeline of garments by washing them with care and on the gentle cycle. Or, you can find higher quality pieces by checking the seams for durability and the clothing labels for natural materials like wool, silk, and linen blends that will often yield better results than synthetic fibers and polyester blends.
And if you’re looking for ways to get your fashion fix without hitting up the mass production stores every weekend, try shopping local with boutiques and designer finds in your neighborhood. Vintage stores and/or thrift stores are also great places to find diamonds in the rough. You can sometimes even score designer pieces that likely boast superior craftsmanship an have already stood the test of time.