I remember first reading about the term “fast fashion”. I was shocked to realize that fast fashion brands had taken over my closet, and that I had been participating in this growing throwaway culture.
Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed. Good on You
Rapid production & changing trends
Have you ever noticed how quickly you can go from seeing a trend on the runway or worn by a celebrity, and just days later have access to an identical piece at Forever 21 or H&M? Naturally, this seems to be great for the consumer. A trendy item can be purchased right as it hits the runway, and at a reasonable price point. These brands have actually created this demand by introducing new items so frequently, making the consumers believe that the clothing they currently have is now outdated.
The fashion industry used to run on four seasons a year: fall, winter, spring, and summer. Designers would work several months ahead to plan for each season and predict the trends as they approach. Now, fast fashion brands produce about 52 “micro-seasons” a year. This means at least one new “collection” every week. According to author Elizabeth Cline, Zara started the craze by shifting to bi-weekly deliveries of new merchandise.
When something seems too good to be true, it often is. Rapid production comes at a cost. And in this case, to those making them, and to the overall quality of the clothing. This clothing is made so quickly, and as a result, brands are selling low-quality merchandise. With this workflow, there isn’t enough time for proper quality control. Garments produced this way are not built to last and typically don’t. The life expectancy on these garments is short, which works out well for fast fashion brands since they want us to continue to buy. Each year, the clothing that is thrown away amounts to about 11 million tons in the US alone. With a new collection coming out every week, what do these brands do with all the leftover inventory? Brands like H&M burn 12 tonnes of unsold garments per year. Ouch!
Environmental Impact And Human Rights Violations
If you can take away one thing from this article it’s this: All elements of fast fashion (rapid production, low quality, and competitive pricing) ultimately impact our environment. The harm and the impact that fast fashion has on our planet is why the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. These brands often use toxic chemicals, dangerous dyes, and synthetic fabrics which seep into water supplies in the countries where they are made.
Garment worker’s health is often jeopardized through their long hours, lack of resources, and exposure to harmful chemicals. These workers have been confirmed to be underpaid, underfed, and pushed to their limits given the high demand and urgency of fast fashion. This unfortunate truth has been a reality that big brands like Joe Fresh have been associated with.
Let's slow it down
Choosing brands that are mindful towards their manufacturing, support fair labor rights, and use natural fabrics like organic cotton, and TENCEL™ is a great start. You can also try to simply buy less, and focus on higher quality classic pieces that will last. Check out thrift shops, and explore the unique vintage brands they carry. You'd be surprised at the incredible pieces you might mind. And finally, think about how you can make your clothes last longer. Invest in a good stain remover, repair that lost button, and resole that worn-out shoe. If you love a piece, make it last!