Fast Fashion – The Monsters In Our Closets
Most times people confuse the definitions of fast fashion and planned obsolescence in fashion. Before we delve into everything about fast fashion, take a few minutes to read our previous article about planned obsolescence in fashion – just so you know what it is and help give you a better understanding of what the difference. [insert article]
The fashion industry is a field of evident instant gratification just like contemporary culture – consumers are always looking for instant satisfaction.
Some years past, consumers were willing to purchase garments from big brands at high prices for their big names and surely guaranteed quality. Today, consumers desire same big brands, but are unwilling to pay the huge prices that come on the tags because they do not possess the quality that should attract such much money.
In the light of this realty, the ‘runners’ of the industry saw the potential in making replicas as a big ‘cash-out’ mechanism, giving birth to fast fashion.
What Then Is FAST FASHION?
Fast fashion is the mass production of cheap stylish, disposal clothes, that gain popularity to meet the fast changing fashion trends. Fast fashion garment production leverages trend replications and low quality materials , in order to bring cheap styles to the consumer.
These cheaply made trendy garment have resulted in an industry-wide move towards overwhelming amount of consumption, which has in turn resulted in harmful impacts on industry workers, consumers’ pocket, and the environment.
Let me give you an idea of a section of the harm.
Every year, the fashion industry tosses out a whooping 80 billion garments, which is over 10 garments for every person on earth. That is 400% more than it was produced 20 years ago. 400%!!
According to TRAID, a clothes waste charity, the average garment is worn only 10 times before it is thrown out. That kind of explains all these huge figures.
How Did FAST FASHION Begin?
Fast fashion began gaining popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Online shopping took off, fashion had become a form of entertainment and demand for ‘fashionable’ clothing had increased. Fashion shows at this point set the stage for new trends which were changing monthly and even weekly, rather than the commonly known seasonal changes.
Some fast fashion retail brands took over, replicating designs from top fashion brands, and selling them cheaply. With trendy garments affordable now more than ever, it is clear as broad day light how things caught up.
Environmental And Human Impact Of FAST FASHION.
All the elements of fast fashion – trend replication, rapid production, low quality, cheap competitive pricing – have real bad effects on the environment and humans.
According to McKinsey, the fashion is responsible for 4% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Plus according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, emissions from textile manufacturing factories alone are projected to skyrocket by 60% by 2030.
The fashion industry requires over 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt, and about 2000 gallons to produce a pair of jeans, making the fashion industry the second largest consumer of water.
Textile dyes are the world’s second largest polluter of water, while pesticides used in cotton cultivation, contaminates the soil and groundwater. These chemicals can find their ways into waterways and pose major health hazards to humans and even animals.
Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic and nylon require energy intensive process that demands large amount of fossil fuel like petroleum and releases volatile particulate matter and acids like hydrogen chloride.
Leather production also requires a large amount of feed, land, water and fossil fuel to raise livestock, while tanning process is among the most toxic in the fashion industry, involving the use of chemicals like mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives and various oils and dyes.
Direct Effects On Humans (Factory Workers)
The health of garment manufacturing factory workers is always in jeopardy as a result of exposure to these chemicals. To add the icing on the cake, these workers work for absurdly long hours, lack resources, are sometimes physically abused and most painful of them all, are under paid.
How To Identify A FAST FASHION Brand.
- Thousands of styles which touch on the latest trends.
- Extremely short turnout time between garment on the runway or in celebrity media, and when it hits the shelves and shops.
- A limited quantity of a particular garment, where new stock arrive in stores every few days and consumers know they will miss their chance if they do not buy something they like – a strategy devised by almighty Zara.
- Cheap, low quality materials like polyester, causing clothes to degrade after a few wears and get thrown out.
Pros And Cons Of FAST FASHION.
- The constant introduction of new products encourages consumers to visit shops more often, making more purchases. The retailer does not replenish stock, rather, the retailer replaces items that sell out with new items. Accordingly, consumers know to purchase item like when they see it because it is likely to be unavailable in a hot second. Because it is cheaply made and sold, it is easy to get people back into stores or online to make fresh purchases.
- Fast fashion is responsible for big profits especially if a manufacturer is able to jump on trends even before the competition starts. The speed at which fast fashion moves tends to help retailers avoid markdowns, which cut into margins. If there are any losses, fast fashion companies are able to recover quickly by launching a new clothing line or item.
- In the case of consumers, fast fashion has enabled people to get the clothes they want when they want them. Clothes are more available now more than ever.
- It has made clothing more affordable. Not just any clothing, but imaginative and trendy clothing. No longer is the latest look or being ‘well-dressed’, or having a large wardrobe the province of the rich and famous.
The Cons :
- Fast fashion has a “throw-away” attitude which is why it is called “disposable fashion”. Many fashionistas in their teens and early twenties – the age group targets – admit they only wear their purchases once or twice.
- It is debatable whether such a disposable mentality really results in the economy: if multiple purchases of fast fashion garments, cheap as they are, end up eventually costing the consumer more than buying a few pricier ones that last longer.
- Fast fashion contributes to pollution, waste, abusive and exploitative practices, planned obsolescence, due to the cheap materials and manufacturing methods it uses.
- Garments made do not age well, but cannot also be recycled since it is predominantly (over 60%) made of synthetics. So when discarded, they molder in landfills for years.
- Most fashion companies outsource the production of their goods – usually to manufacturers based in developing countries – and some have been none too stringent in overseeing their sub-contactors, nor transparent about their chain supply.
- Fast fashion has also been criticized on intellectual property grounds, with some designers alleging that their designs have been illegally duplicated and mass produced by the fast fashion companies.
In an attempt to curb the situation of fast fashion, it is advisable to
- wash clothes only when necessary. Use gentle detergent to extend their life.
- repair rips, broken zippers and lost buttons instead of trashing damaged items.
- donate what you no longer wear. It could put a smile on someone’s face.
- choose clothes made in countries with stricter environmental regulations for factories (Canada, E.U., U.S.,…etc)
- buy less, buy better quality and recycle.
- purchase from sustainable brands. Look for garment with certification label controlling chemicals such as OEKO-TEX, GOTS or BLUESIGN.
- Forever 21
- Urban Outfitters
- Victoria Secret
- Fashion Nova
- Pull & Bear
- New Look
- Stradivarius, etc.
Photo Credit: Google