The cost of clothing in the United States has risen by 5.6% over the past year, according to Fast Company, while Retail Wire reports that 15% of executives plan to increase clothing prices by more than 10% in 2022. As a result, many retail businesses have had to choose between using cheaper, lower-quality fabrics or raising prices.
According to Fashion Network, luxury fashion brands have implemented a 15% price increase between January 2021 and January 2022. However, fast fashion brands have managed to keep their prices relatively low. This is mainly due to the materials used by fast fashion companies to produce their clothes. Fashion Network states that the cost of cotton clothing has increased by 11%, while the price of polyester and viscose clothing has remained stable (increasing by 3% and 1%, respectively).
To keep their clothing affordable, many fast fashion companies like Shein, Asos, Uniqlo, Forever 21, and Zara rely heavily on synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, rayon, spandex, and others. The Royal Society of Arts reports that up to 88% of recently cataloged products on several fast fashion websites contain new plastics. While these textiles are less expensive to manufacture, they have numerous negative health impacts. Some microplastic particles shed by polyester clothing release bisphenol A, a hormone disruptor that can decrease fertility even in small doses. In addition, the dyes and chemicals used in polyester production can often cause skin rashes and irritation. Antimony oxide, a chemical found in polyester, is a carcinogen that can cause heart, skin, kidney, and liver problems. Fast fashion retailers also frequently use “forever chemicals” called PFAS in their workout clothes, which can lead to liver damage, kidney and testicular cancers, and developmental problems. Many fast fashion brands use Azo dyes in their clothing, which are easily absorbed by the skin and are known carcinogens. Shein, in particular, has been caught using phthalates in its clothing, which can cause a range of health issues, including diabetes, breast cancer, and ADHD. Formaldehyde helps prevent wrinkles and gives clothing a “new” smell, but it is a potent irritant that can cause respiratory problems.
As inflation shows no signs of slowing down and 80% of people report being concerned about their personal finances, more people are turning to fast fashion retailers as their most affordable option for purchasing new clothes. This trend in consumer purchasing habits makes it more critical than ever to highlight the dangers of widespread, cheap, toxic clothing so that buyers are aware of the risks they are taking when shopping with these companies.