Save Your Money: Fast Fashion Isn’t Really a Good Deal

Women shop for clothing at a store.
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Fast fashion — clothing that’s produced cheaply and rapidly in the latest trends — allows consumers to have replicas of designer looks with prices starting around $15 apiece. 

With these price tags, why not get that sleeveless top in four different colors? 

H&M, Zara or Forever 21 are fast fashion darlings at malls across the world, getting in new styles several times a week. Then there is the string of retailers we’ve never heard of like Luvrosy, Vistty, Ekzia and Hebechic that pop up uninvited on Instagram feeds with deals that can be had with just a few touches on our phone.

Getting more for your money seems to be the smart way to go, however, there are many reasons fast fashion costs more, not less. 

The High Cost of Fast Fashion

The low prices prompt consumers to buy clothes they won’t wear as often as they think and that won’t last as long as they’d expect, according to Elizbeth Cline, author of Over-Dressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

“Low price and fast trends have made clothing throw-away items, allowing us to set aside such serious questions as ‘How long will this last?’ or ‘Will I even like it when I get it home?’” Cline writes. Seams may rip on the third wash, buttons pop off the second time out the door, clothes go in the trash and consumers go back to the store.

“Fast-fashion consumers, not surprisingly, shop more than other consumers,” Cline reported. 

A recent show on fast fashion by the commentator and comedian Hasan Minhaj shared these facts to illustrate how low prices encourage consumers to buy clothes they don’t really need:

  • The average woman buys 64 pieces of clothing a year and wears half of them only three times a year. 
  • The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothes a year.
  • The majority of used clothes donated to charitable stores eventually end up in the trash.

It’s better to buy fewer pieces of clothing that cost more but will last longer, Cline advised. 

Simply avoiding fast-fashion stores will help deter spending.  

As for the retailers on your Instagram feed with names that aren’t remotely familiar, they are still very tempting. 

That flowing, white maxi dress with lemons and palm fronds is just $30.99 on Luvrosy, (marked down from $65) and could go from the beach to a restaurant to a club.

The tie-dye cotton jumpsuit on JNJeans that’s $26 and used to be $46 looks completely comfy.

And that $30 white shirt that says “Let It” in cursive next to a sketch of a bee in the Smavty ad, well, nobody else has that. 

Watch for These Warning Signs

Instead of wishing you had vetted these online retailers better when that lemon dress never arrives, or when it does arrive two sizes too small, we’ll explain why these frugal finds are, generally, not worth it. 

A simple Google search for Luvrosy brings up another search saying: “Is Luvrosy Legit?” 

Try JNjeans and up comes “Is JNjeans a scam or legit website?”

Those red flags could be enough to end your interest. 

But if you want to look further, here are some other ways to determine if you want to deal with an unfamiliar online retailer that finds you on social media.

Search for reviews online, including Facebook.

This comment popped up when searching Luvrosy: “Warning: Do not buy from this website. I’ve placed an order and never received my order. They took my money and didn’t even reply with an email on what’s happening with my shipment. It’s really too bad because they have cute things and I would continue to order, but what good is it if you don’t receive anything. In actuality they just stole my money.”

Compare reviews of products on the company’s website. 

All the reviews will most likely be positive when they are populated on the company website. But taking time to compare the reviews you might see the positive words a “customer” posts for the orange romper also appear in exactly the same comment with the peacock-printed blouse and the cropped jeans.

Check return policies carefully.

This seems like unnecessary reading of fine print. Consumers have become accustomed to     clicking on a link on retailers’ websites to print a return label and ship items for free with no explanation to get a full refund. 

Many of these lesser-known retailers require consumers to email them to find out where to return products. The address is often out of the country.

Here’s an example of the return policy for Smavty, which is similar to many others:

“Please contact our customer service to get a return/exchange authorization and return address within 30 days upon receipt. We don’t accept the returned package without authorization from customer service.”

“Only if our products have quality problems, will we accept return requests. And please allow a little bit color and size difference, this is inevitable.”

Perhaps it’s a lack of quality control or the rapid production schedules. But consumers report receiving clothes that are way too big or too small, even though they are all marked the same size. 

Find out shipping costs first.

Click around on these retailers websites to find where their manufacturing is based. It’s most often in Asia and that’s where returns must be mailed at the consumer’s expense. The average cost of sending a package from Florida to Singapore, for example, is $50. Retailers are bankingthat customers won’t pay more than an item cost to return it. So you get stuck with something that doesn’t fit or looks different than promised.

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance editor and writer in St. Petersburg, Fla. and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker, Missteps and Lessons Learned.