How Fast Fashion Disproportionately Affects Women

Learn why we should start shopping ethically and sustainably

Many are familiar with popular companies whose clothing lines are stocked with the latest styles. The clothes sold at many of these stores are known as “fast fashion.” According to Oxford Languages, the definition of fast fashion is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass market retailers in response to the latest trend.” Fast fashion originated in the 1990s and has been on the rise ever since. What makes fast fashion so appealing to buyers is that the clothing is often cheap and caters to popular fashion trends. Unfortunately, the production of fast fashion is disproportionately harmful to women in developing countries.

Fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and Zaful mostly produce their clothing in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Philippines. One in six workers around the world are employed in the fashion industry and 80% of these workers are women. Of these women, about 80% are between the ages of 18–35 (Good on You). Many of the young women are forced to work under poor conditions with minimal pay, making it difficult to provide for their families. For example, in Bangladesh the average income is about $97 a month. Reports have shown that less than 1% of workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam earn a living wage.

In addition to earning a low wage, these women also have to work extremely long hours. These conditions trap women in the cycle of poverty because they have to constantly work long hours for minimum pay in order to survive. In addition, it is known that garment warehouses employ underage workers. The girls are forced to work in dangerous working conditions and have to miss out on the opportunity to expand their education. The women and children in these living situations are not given the opportunity to thrive because they have to focus on earning an income. If women were paid fairly for their skills, they would be able to rise out of poverty and provide a better future for themselves and their families.

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In order for change to happen, consumers need to take action with where and how they spend their money. Start off by educating yourself on where and how your clothing is made. Education is a major key to change. Consumers can refuse to purchase from companies that exploit their workers and can also demand better treatment such as higher pay, safer working conditions, and adequate time off for workers.

Here are a few examples of ethically made fashion brands to check out!

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Patagonia has been around since the 1970s and is a pioneer of sustainable clothing. They use recycled materials and organic cotton in all of their products. Today they continue to support various groups and organizations that aid in fighting against environmental destruction.


Reformation is a sustainable women’s clothing brand. They focus on producing clothing using organic cotton and recycled materials. They also take their time during the design stage of their clothing and make sure to release upstanding quality products to its customers.


Pact creates organic and affordable clothing. They only use organic fabrics and focus on treating their workers well. They go out of their way to ensure that the supply chain is extremely clean and responsible.

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