Last week, Kourtney Kardashian Barker was announced as the new “Sustainability Ambassador” for fast fashion company Boohoo. Given Boho’s reputation as a fast fashion destroyer, this news was not welcomed, at least among climate activists.
Fast fashion is defined as “an approach to apparel fashion design, creation and marketing that emphasizes making fashion trends available to consumers quickly and cheaply” as opposed to “regular” fashion. Boohoo has been criticized in particular for using cheap materials, disproportionate quantities and an overall negative customer experience. The UK has made it one of the most sustainable brands in the country. Fast fashion not only affects the climate, the textile industry represents 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but also affects culture.
Our society is based on instant gratification, desirable products, and solutions built for the moment rather than longevity. Fast fashion has been packaged as an industry for Generation Z primarily because of its affordability and quick turnaround for consumers, but in reality, our generation has contributed to devastating cultural harms, from slave labor to filling countless landfills.
While Kardashian Barker is launching an entirely new collection with Boho, she’ll be joining an ecosystem of social media influencers who earn commissions on products sold from their accounts. The so-called “haul” of Tiktoks and Instagram Reals has added fuel to the fire with frequent and high-volume marketing conversations. A quick search for “Shein try on haul” yields millions of results.
The China-based Shin Company is perhaps the largest clothing manufacturer in the world. Forbes The company estimates that it adds more than 1,000 new designs a day, and at any given time, the designs on Shain’s website are only available for about three months. Instead of offering high-quality, versatile pieces, Shane encourages high closet turnover, increasing clothing waste. To make matters worse, scientists in Canada recently found that Schein jackets for infants contained more than 20 times the amount of lead that is considered safe for children.
Shane has run into trouble with supply chain reporting and labor laws because the company is suspected of using slave or at least low-wage labor to produce its clothes. Although Shin has denied allegations that she used child labor, many of the practices are still unknown to the public. Similarly, an undercover investigation found that Buhu was paying its factory workers less than $5 an hour.
Both Shein and Buhu manufacture at least some of their products in China, and China’s labor practices and human rights abuses have come under increased scrutiny recently with the passage of a mandatory Uyghur labor protection law. The brutal and inhumane treatment of this minority population in concentration camps, the crimes of international espionage on social media sites, and the repression of people who speak out against the government are the CCP’s most pressing concerns. Moreover, the country’s devastating environmental impact, especially on the world’s oceans, has made China easily the number one polluter in the world. The bottom line is that American manufacturing is better for the environment and workers.
Fast fashion threatens not only the planet we call home, but our health and well-being. Instead of partnering with a scandal-plagued fast fashion company, Kardashian Barker should use her influence to buy high-quality clothes and even encourage second-hand shopping. At the very least, if she wants to parlay her influencer status into a sustainability ambassador, she should buy American-made products from companies with legitimate sustainability practices and treat their workers with respect.
Danielle Boucher is the Executive Vice President of the American Conservation Alliance. Isabel Brown is a conservative content creator and streamer, best-selling author, and Gen Z political analyst.