What is Fast Fashion?
Fast Fashion concerns the production of inexpensive clothing produced at high speeds to meet the demand of current fashions, which after being bought is usually only worn a few times before being discarded.
The consequences of fast fashion are devastating to both the environment and to workers’ rights, as the reliance on plastic materials and the underpayment of employees are becoming more common amongst even high-profile brands.
The Emergence of Fast Fashion
It could be said that fast fashion as a concept originated in the 1800s at the start of the industrial revolution, but as we know it today, the practice became more identifiable in the 1960s when younger people looked for cheaper clothing to meet new fashions.
There is no clear answer to which brand first embraced fast fashion, but larger budget retailers such as Primark, Zara and TopShop have focused their efforts on mass-producing cheaper garments and quickly redistributing them once demand changes.
Primark has developed an especially infamous reputation for its low prices and stock turnover, from reports of illegal labour practices to poor working conditions in its factories.
Essentially, fast fashion relies on the consistent purchase of cheap clothes at a fast pace. Newer companies such as Boohoo and Shein have begun offering incredibly low priced items that make a loss in order to drive traffic to their sites.
The pandemic hit some retailers hard, with companies that operate physical stores suffering. New Look suffered a one hundred million decrease in profits, whilst fast retailers such as Zara doubled their net profits, registering £3.2 billion at the end of 2021.
The rise of social media and influencer culture has undoubtedly influenced fast fashion, as companies identify trends and rush to provide them. Brands have targeted popular influencers such as former Love Island stars, with Molly Mae Hauge signing a seven-figure deal with Pretty Little Thing last year.
A recent survey reported that almost 75% of 18-24-year-olds hold influencers accountable for the brands they promote. As a result, the ASA introduced a law that forces influencers to identify if they’re being sponsored or promoting a product as an advertisement.
Problems with Fast Fashion
One of the most significant problems with fast fashion is the heavy environmental and price attached to the production.
The fashion sector contributes to a significant amount of carbon emissions, totalling almost 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the fashion industry utilises 1.5 trillion litres of water every year and by 2030 we could be using almost double that.
But it isn’t just production that is the problem; waste is a large factor in the issue. The culture of wearing a garment once to throw it away contributes significantly, especially as many polyester fibres don’t degrade, which is the leading cause of plastics in our oceans.
What can you do?
Undoubtedly, fast fashion is attractive, offering low prices and fast delivery. But if you’re looking to take the first step to sustainable shopping, here is what you can do:
Buy less and wear more. Avoid single use items and try recycling your clothes to charity shops which can generate more use out of garments rather than throwing them away. Vintage and thrifting shops are becoming more common, becoming involved in this community is a good way to stop contributing to fast fashion.
Know your brands. Knowing which of your brands contribute to sustainability is the first step in changing where you shop. Sometimes shopping sustainably isn’t an option, so knowing the value that you can get is important.
For example, brands that offer more services can bring more benefits. Looking into companies that offer personalisation can support small businesses. Companies like Woven Inc offer a variety of custom embroidery services as well as screen printing, so try looking at independent retailers and custom garment experts before larger corporations.