One senior’s personal fight against fast fashion

By Greyson Van Arsdale, ’17

Senior Melia Martin has committed to working against “fast fashion” in her modeling and daily life.

Martin became passionate about fighting fast fashion practices after watching “The True Cost,” a documentary made in 2015 by director Andrew Morgan.

“Throughout the documentary, I was completely appalled by what I was seeing,” Martin said. “It is a problem. I was very taken aback at first, just because i didn’t know anything about it. It was a slap in the face.”

After watching the documentary, Martin committed to changing the way she shops.

“Ever since then I’ve been super against fast fashion and doing my part to shop efficiently and making sure what I buy lines up with my morals,” Martin said.

Fast fashion is the process by which most of our clothes are made today. This method describes a manufacturing style so quick that a piece of clothing can move from a runway to store shelves in days.

In order to achieve this, fast fashion companies like Gap, Zara and Forever 21 outsource their clothes to producers in third-world countries, such as Bangladesh and India. As the garment companies are privately owned, retailers are not required to inspect the companies’ facilities for safety measures. This is what led to the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, where a Bangladesh factory producing clothing for the brand Joe Fresh collapsed, killing over 1,100 workers and wounding many others.

“I was very ignorant to the fact that people were dying,” Martin said in reference to the Rana Plaza tragedy.

Fast fashion also poses a problem to the environment. Clothes made in this manner are generally of poor quality and degrade quickly, so they’re thrown out at a higher rate than clothes that are made ethically, causing a waste issue.

There is no doubt that this strategy is profitable — Americans buy five times more clothing now than we did in 1980, according to the Atlantic. But Martin argues that fast fashion is not environmentally sustainable.

“The materials and dyes they use for their clothes aren’t durable. So when people throw away their clothes… they sit in dumps for very long times and aren’t biodegradable,” Martin said. “They just sit in wastelands. It’s very harmful to the environment.”

This carries over to Martin’s work as an independent model. Though she is not currently signed to an agency, she has modeled professionally for Vernacular, a Grandview-based women’s clothing brand, as well as the Columbus Book Project. Martin also models for independent photographers such as Kate Sweeney and Arlingtonian’s own Caroline Chidester.

Martin communicates with photographers to go for a “look” that she feels represents her style, as well as her committment to working against fast fashion.

“When you’re independent and not signed, it allows you to go for the look you want,” Martin said. “It depends on what the photographer’s vision is, but if not I just go with whatever I want to wear… About 80 percent of my wardrobe is thrifted.”

As a lover of fashion, Martin advocates smart shopping and awareness of what is being sold.

“When you’re looking at clothes, check the tag, make sure you don’t see anything like ‘Made in China’ or any other third-world country. Look for labels that say ‘made in the U.S.,’ or European countries like Italy,” Martin said. “People tend to feed into the consumerism. And it’s not just the clothes, either. We’ve built ourselves into this cycle. A lot of people don’t even know what fast fashion is. That just shows that we need to talk about it and we need to get people aware.”