John Oliver discussed the fast fashion system in his April 26, 2015 episode of Last Week Tonight on “Fashion,” featuring footage of Elizabeth Cline and the themes and research of her book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. Cline helped producers behind the scenes to develop the episode, which covered the loss of U.S. manufacturing, the wealth of fast fashion CEOs in comparison to garment workers, the prevalence of child labor and sweatshops, and the waste and exploitation inherit in the fast fashion industry.
Americans buy roughly 64 items of clothing per person per year, a fashion habit that comes thanks to the low prices available at cheap retailers like H&M, Zara and Forever 21. But there’s a dark side to cheap clothing, as Overdressed explores and Oliver deftly picks apart.
“With such cheap prices, how does any clothing company make money?” Oliver asks. Elizabeth, in a clip from The New York Times video, is shown saying, “As much as half of our clothing was made in the United States as recently as the 1990s. And now it’s 2%.” The offshoring of fashion to countries with cheap wages and lax labor laws is a key part of the fast fashion formula. Watch the full episode below!