Fast FashionWhen Nikki Reed isn’t on the big screen fighting evil vampires with the rest of the Cullen clan, she is creating ethical jewelry, clothing, home and beauty items for her sustainable brand, Bayou with Love. In 2017, the Twilight actress launched Bayou with Love in partnership with Freedom of Animals founder Morgan Bogle to create “a zero waste model with the smallest footprint possible.”

“I think what initially made me want to start Bayou was the desire to find products in the fashion industry that were ethically made, sustainable and chemical-free, and I couldn’t find any,” Reed said in an interview on her website. “I thought, ‘If I’m looking for them, other women must be too.’”

Fashion trends are constantly changing — driving consumers to frequently purchase new products.

And there’s a term for this: Fast fashion.

What Is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. This might seem ideal, but it causes a host of ethical and environmental concerns.

Ethical Concerns

Many prominent fashion brands, such as Forever 21 and H&M, contract with suppliers in underdeveloped countries to receive high quantities of clothing for a low price. Oftentimes these suppliers are unregistered, meaning they do not have to abide by any laws to provide safe working conditions for employees.

To keep up with big-brand demands, sweatshop workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Further, their salaries do not align with the extreme hours. For example, in Bangladesh workers are paid around 33 cents an hour.

Sadly, this is often their best option. Unethical clothing manufacturers typically target the poor — specifically women and children.

Working conditions in these sweatshops are toxic. Without proper ventilation, employees inhale toxic substances, like fiber dust and sand.

Additionally, the infrastructure of these buildings is often unsafe. A devastating incident in 2013 revealed the extreme danger of these sweatshops. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza sweatshop collapsed and killed 1,134 garment workers. The building could not support the number of people and generators that were packed in at once.

Environmental Concerns

The pace at which the fast fashion industry produces clothing pushes consumers to buy new products — often, this means discarding old ones. According to reports, the average person buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago but only keeps them for half the time.

Many of these discarded clothing items are in great condition but head straight to landfills. More than 100 billion garments are produced each year, but 87% end up in landfills or incinerators — emitting toxic gasses into the atmosphere.

On the bright side, brands like Bayou with Love and thrift stores are working toward sustainability in the fashion industry.

Bayou’s Sustainability Efforts

Bayou with Love’s partnership with Dell is one of the unique ways that it practices sustainability. By extracting gold from e-waste like old computer motherboards, Dell and its partners help Bayou with Love create recycled jewelry ranging from engagement rings to everyday necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more. The process is more environmentally friendly than extracting gold from the earth.

Bayou with Love also uses environmentally friendly materials for its clothing. These include cupro, recycled cotton canvas, tencel, post-consumer plastic, low-chemical-content chambrays and dyeing techniques and organic cotton to name a few.


The idea of thrifting or buying second-hand items is not new but is rapidly growing for a variety of reasons — TikTok among them. Many fashion and lifestyle creators post videos on the app of different outfits they created completely from thrift stores. For example, @halleykate rose to popularity on the app by posting “thrift hauls.” Now with more than 1 million followers on the platform, Halley’s videos promote sustainable yet trendy shopping habits.

Online thrift stores are a relatively new concept, too, with the launch of eBay and Craigslist in 1995. Since then, sites such as ThreadUp, Poshmark, DePop and others have made second-hand shopping easier. ThreadUp’s annual resale report for 2022 showed that thrift shopping is expected to grow 127% by 2026.

The push for sustainable fashion choices could play a vital role in protecting both the environment and people working in unsafe conditions. By combatting the fast fashion industry with Bayou with Love, Nikki Reed is promoting a new, healthier way to shop and be stylish.

– Taylor Barbadora
Photo: Unsplash

Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a term that the fashion industry uses to refer to the cheap manufacturing of runway styles in a quick manner and it has established dominance in today’s consumer market. Top brands like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 utilize this production technique to hook customers on seasonal goods through low-cost labor that often puts employees at risk. Several controversies in the past have led to disasters, taking the lives of thousands and putting into question the ethics of mass production. In the wake of such calamity, slow fashion has risen up as a movement against the large companies. Through the promotion of improved safety measures and higher quality groups, small businesses are attempting to counteract the damage done.

Fast Fashion Disasters

Past grievances physically showcase the drawbacks of the Fast Fashion industry. The work conditions often put employees in dangerous situations which results in severe consequences. The Rana Plaza Factory collapse goes down in history as an example of this for the fashion industry. The factory, located in Dhaka, Bangladesh, manufactured clothing for European and American companies. On April 24, 2013, the building collapsed in on itself and killed 142 employees in the destruction. The disaster was a wakeup call for most, as the building itself violated several safety codes and builders constructed the upper four floors without a permit. The event called into question the ethics and legality of mass production factories. Specifically, the fashion industry entered the debate because not only do companies put lives at risk, but the monetary compensation is notoriously low.

Low Wage Workers

Another significant aspect of this problem is the location of the factories. Companies often take advantage of underprivileged and impoverished nations in order to reduce costs. The wages that citizens of these countries receive often do not measure up to the amount they work. One prime example is with the brand H&M, which has faced recent backlash for failing to provide fair living wages to its workers in various countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Turkey and Bulgaria. While H&M responded by arguing that there is no global standard for a living wage, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) found that workers in Cambodia earn approximately half of those in Turkey. It is therefore evident that the company has been taking advantage of the low quality of life in Cambodia and exploiting the poverty of the nation.

The Slow Fashion Movement

The slow fashion movement has surfaced in recent years as a response to the controversy surrounding fast fashion brands. Members of this crusade work to fight against current practices by producing higher quality goods in safer working conditions and for better pay. These businesses also receive help from organizations like the Good Business Lab, a start-up that focuses on finding a compromise between company goals and employee treatment. At the moment, the nonprofit is located in India and has a sister branch in the United States in order the spread the aid.

The Need for Consumer Awareness

With materials and business practices put under a lens, others have forced the fast fashion industry to refocus itself. The fashion industry is reframing products and their value in the eyes of the public. Additionally, it is finally addressing the imbalance between labor wages and work conditions for the employees. Ultimately, as consumers become more aware of the malpractice occurring behind closed glass store doors, these companies will have to reevaluate their practices and make some drastic changes.

Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Forever 21 gives back to those in need, having carried products over the years in aid of a number of organizations. Purchases from the popular retailer have contributed to the donation of $11.5 million worth of merchandise throughout 2016 to global charities such as Soles4Souls, On Your Feet and the Feed Project.

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit that collects and distributes shoes and clothing to disadvantaged communities in 127 countries around the world and throughout the U.S. As a part of its partnership with Forever 21, Soles4Souls has donated more than 800,000 units of clothing. Initially founded as a disaster relief organization, Soles4Souls provided footwear to those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In many developing nations where walking is the primary mode of transportation, millions of people lack proper footwear to get around, and as a result, are exposed to unsanitary conditions that can lead to disease. These conditions contribute to the ongoing cycle of poverty, and the vision of Soles4Souls is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and its efforts to provide a new pair of shoes to each child in need help work toward that goal.

Forever 21 gives back through its collaboration with the On Your Feet Family Resource Center, which provides assistance to low-income or homeless families and individuals, shelters, missions, board and care facilities and other organizations. Forever 21 has provided nearly 700,000 units worth of clothing donations, which have reached victims of natural disasters in Nepal, Chile, Bohol and Haiti.

FEED was founded by Lauren Bush in 2007 and has transformed into a movement fighting against hunger in a tangible way. FEED creates handcrafted products, such as bags, pouches and bracelets, using eco-friendly materials and fair labor. Giving these products raises aid that is ultimately delivered in the form of school meals, micronutrients, mother-child nutrition, Vitamin A and emergency relief. Together, Forever 21 and FEED have provided more than 71,000 meals.

While designing and keeping up with the latest trends for consumers, it is also evident that Forever 21 gives back to vulnerable communities. By establishing alliances with such charitable organizations, great numbers of people in underprivileged areas have received the assistance needed to ease their poverty and hunger and move toward prosperity.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr