Retail Therapy: Who Really Needs the Therapy?


The glutton in all of us adores a good shopping spree. Whether it is a crop top from Forever 21 or a pair of cargo pants from Walmart, the clothes we wear shape us as individuals.  We would not want to wear clothing that represents us negatively, right?

But beware of what you wear. In all the clothing we buy, there’s a tag inside explaining the size, the brand label, and where it was made.  This “Made in” tag is more than just an allusion to a foreign place; this tag is the end result of an often-tragic story.

This foreign tag is an indication of a key player in the fashion industry’s dirty game: outsourcing.  Companies pay a fraction of domestic costs to workers while at the same time they get away with forced overtime and nearly intolerable working conditions. China is notorious for producing most of the West’s consumer goods, but at what cost?

Nearly four percent of the world’s waste materials come from textiles produced in China’s cities. On top of that, China produces 26 million tons of waste annually. Think about that in terms of clothing: Only 2.6 million tons of Chinese materials turn into the clothes we wear. For every cute crop top you’re wearing, ten times as much waste is polluting the environment or clogging up a landfill.

Not only does the clothing industry produce heaps of textile waste, but they truck out waste from all levels of clothing production. In its primary steps, cotton farming is responsible for 24% of the world’s insecticides and 11% of the world’s pesticides. In the later steps, 20% of global wastewater is produced in fashion factories. These factors make the fashion field the world’s second greatest polluting industry.  When you discover a “made in China” tag on that trendy t-shirt, you may want to reconsider.

While fashion companies themselves are largely responsible for these burdens, consumers also keep the cycle going. Western consumers pressure companies to continue producing cheaper clothing.  But with the decrease in prices also comes a decrease in quality, creating a modern flood of throw-away clothing.

But throw-away clothing doesn’t really just disappear. Cheaper clothing, while seemingly better for your bank account, will end up costing more as you’ll end up paying for replacements more often. With the increase in the production of clothing, factory workers are expected to produce even more than they had before. Hence, the ongoing cycle restarts and worker conditions abroad continue to deteriorate.

The average person can help limit the ongoing and flawed cycle of fast fashion in various ways. Some solutions include limiting the purchase of clothing to reduce waste, buying clothing second-hand to avoid funding fast fashion brands, and donating no longer used clothes.

At what point will the consumer take a stand to end the ongoing terror of “fast fashion”? Looking at your labels is a smart first step.



American Chemical Society. “Upcycling ‘fast fashion’ to reduce waste and pollution.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2017. <>.

FashionUnited. Global Fashion Industry Statistics. /global-fashion-industry-statistics/. Accessed 1 Oct. 2019.

UN Partnership.

Xue, Hong Yan, et al. “Research on the Disposal Strategy of Waste Textiles.” Applied Mechanics and Materials, 2014, doi:10.4028/