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Common Reading 2022: Ultra-Fast Fashion is Eating the World by Rachel Monroe

Ultra-Fast Fashion is Eating the World — Rachel Monroe

Monroe’s article discusses the rise, appeal, and consequences – both economic and environmental – of fast fashion. Beginning with an examination of the rise of Boohoo, Monroe details how the company targeted customers with fashionable, yet affordable, clothing, often through online influencers. With the pandemic limiting people's ability to shop and sell in-person, online companies like Boohoo continued to flourish. Despite these benefits, Monroe closes the article by pointing out the negative consequences of fast fashion, such as the environmental and human rights problems that it poses.

Discussion Questions

1. Is it possible to retain the fast-fashion business model with more ethical practices? How might fast fashion remedy some of the problems the article poses?

2. Are influencers responsible for knowing the practices of companies that sponsor them? Why or why not?

3. What are your thoughts on the fast-fashion phenomenon? Do you research clothing manufacturers before buying?

Class Activity

1. Examine some of the clothing brands in your closet. Conduct some research on two or three of them. Where do they come from? What are their brands’ mission statements? Do they engage in ethical labor and environmental practices?  

2. Check out some of the sustainability efforts taking place at Susquehanna. Visit the solar field, Benny's Bee Hives, the campus garden, or the Office of Sustainability. Find out ways that you can get involved with on-campus organizations dealing with sustainability.

Introduction — Elizabeth Ennis

We tell stories with the clothing we wear. Throughout history, who we are and what we value most has been illustrated through ever-changing silhouettes and hemlines, patterns and prints, textiles and trimmings. But in the modern era of social media, what is the cost of this culture of free self-expression? The following text examines the phenomenon of fast fashion—cheap and trendy clothing produced rapidly on an alarming scale. While Rachel Monroe paints a grim picture of the impacts of an oversaturated clothing market, there is also a note of hope in her article. She hypothesizes that the fast-fashion industry has started to burn itself out, as influencers and customers alike show a renewed interest in the ethics of their image. As you read, consider the evolution of this fast-fashion industry: How did it start, why has it become so prevalent, and what consequences does it have for the environment and human rights? How do we correct these trends? Do we, the average consumers, have more power than we realize to slow fashion down again? 

The true cost of fast fashion | The Economist

Susquehanna University Sustainability Map

Click on the image to check out Susquehanna's Interactive Sustainability Map!

About the Author

Rachel Monroe is based in Marfa, Texas where she is a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and occasional radio host. She has written about crime, communes, utopias, drones, small towns, firefighters, fires, border issues, haunted houses, and motorcycles, among other things. Her book, Savage Appetites: True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession (Scribner 2019) was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and named a best book of the year by Esquire, the Chicago Tribune, and Jezebel. 

Additional Resources

Click here to check out some of Susquehanna's sustainability initiatives. These include the solar array, the campus garden, research at the Center for Environmental Education and Research, and programs created by the Office of Sustainability.


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