Hasan Minhaj Takes On the Fast Fashion Industry in the Latest Patriot Act

Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The New Yorker

“If you love H&M and Zara I’m sorry- you’re going to hate this episode,” warns Minhaj.

After Saudi Arabia, Amazon and the NRA, Hasan Minhaj has found his next target: the fashion industry. In the latest episode of his award-winning Netflix show Patriot Act, the comedian and commentator dove not just into the practices of fast fashion companies wreaking havoc on the planet but into the consumer behaviour that’s enabling and encouraging those brands.

“We want the feeling of luxury without paying full price,” he says of fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M, which knock off high fashion designs the moment they hit the runway, delivering them to stores at affordable prices mere weeks later. This democratization of fashion comes at a price.

Setting aside the questionable working conditions and practices at many of the factories where these cheap goods are churned out, Minhaj focuses on the environmental impact of fast fashion. In a snappy 30-minute episode, he lays out some sobering numbers and stats from recent reports. For example, did you know that in 2015 the greenhouse gases from textile production were more than the emissions of all flights and maritime shipping combined? Basically, Minhaj quips, “the clothes in your suitcase are screwing up the planet more than the flight you put them on.”

He also touches on the “greenwashing” tactics employed by fast fashion companies to make it seem like they’re more environmentally conscious than they really are, and looks closer at some of the materials and fabrics used by these popular brands to help sustain their weekly merchandise drops.

It’s not just the companies at fault though. According to Jennifer Hyman, founder of clothing rental site Rent The Runway, half of the items that women buy are worn just three times or less. That’s hugely wasteful. But the solution to all this isn’t to stop shopping altogether. Just like the very magazine you’re reading now, what Minhaj is advocating for is shopping less, shopping smarter, and shopping more mindfully. According to a news segment Minhaj airs on the show, “If everyone bought one used item this year instead of new, it could save nearly 6 pounds of CO2 emissions – that’s equivalent to removing half a million cars off the road for a year.”

Once you’ve absorbed that mind-boggling fact, head to Netflix for the full episode and maybe, just maybe, think twice before clicking Add to Cart on your favourite fast fashion site.

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