The Real Reason H&M Is So Cheap

You know that thrill you get when you spot a rack full of trendy shirts that are marked at 80% off the retail price? Well, researchers have come to some interesting — if not surprising — conclusions about what really causes that "shopper's high." The neurotransmitter (a.k.a. brain chemical) dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure, surges when we contemplate buying something new — and they surge even higher when that new item is on sale (via Elle). Enter H&M, which has firmly cemented its spot as one of the world's leading sellers of "fast fashion" — or, the store of cheap, often on sale trends.

The Swedish apparel giant has been praised — and criticized — for helping produce a fashion industry that treats clothes like disposable Tupperware. Its clothes are cheap and cute, sure, but not intended for long-term wear. Also, at a time when environmental concerns and abuses of workers' rights are making headlines, H&M has been criticized for contributing to the problem on both fronts (via Business Insider).

There's a reason the store can sell shirts for $5.99. Cheap clothes are only cheap to the buyer, and most of us have a hard time passing up what seems like a great deal. But there are ethical concerns with just how that shirt was designed, sourced for materials, and produced — all at rock-bottom prices.

H&M is a leader in the 'fast fashion' movement

H&M doesn't produce clothing in-house. It outsources its production to hundreds of suppliers around the world (largely in Asia and Europe). With a lengthy list of steps that lie between the designer and the retail store, including suppliers, factories, sub-contractors, and sub-sub-contractors, it's nearly impossible to oversee each step to make sure that workplace laws are being upheld and that workers aren't being exploited.

Not to mention the fact that, since the emphasis of "fast fashion" is on buying clothes frequently and on quantity, rather than quality, most of it eventually ends up in landfills — to the tune of close to 70 pounds of clothing per year, per person in the U.S. (via HuffPost).

To their credit, H&M has come to recognize the problem and is taking measures to mitigate it by increasing recycling efforts and launching its Conscious line, which uses recycled fabrics and more sustainable methods of production. It's a start, but doesn't address a key issue: The only way "fast fashion" can make a profit is by selling tons of clothes (literally!) fast — a concept that will never be good for our wallets, the environment, or even our mental states (via Quartz).