What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a fairly recent trend where companies mass-produce new fashion trends in order to serve customers with the latest hot fashion at a cheap price tag. Fast-fashion companies strive on the model of surveiling fashion shows, making high-end designs expeditiously, mass-producing those designs and stocking stores with about a hundred collections each year. 

As globalization grew and got better, fashion companies resorted to crossing borders to get cheaper operations and supply-chain components. Currently, production houses for fast fashion companies are located in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and China where labour costs are low. As consumers grew to wanting new clothes more frequently, companies saw the opportunity and made their paper-to-store cycle even shorter. 

The question that arises now is that of the greater good. Fast-fashion giants such as H&M and Zara see big revenue numbers every year, but at what cost? Consumers that tag themselves as shopoholics induce happiness and attention by being on top of fashion trends, but at what cost? Clothing has become conveniently available and cheap, especially with ultra-fast-fashion e-commerce websites, but at what cost?

Why is it a boon?

  • Way of expression: people curb their need to express themselves through clothes with the availability of new and cheap clothes so frequently all year around
  • Sense of community: as online and influencer marketing has increased tremendously, many people draw their sense of belongingness by being on top of trends. More specifically, when one comes across their favourite celebrity/influencer dawning a brand they have an urge to get the same or similar clothes and accessories. The power of psychological spike of feeling connected to “idols” is used by brands and marketers to push products even further through influencer marketing.

Why is it a bane?

  • Devalues high-end fashion: When fast-fashion companies have designs similar or the exact same as high-end fashion companies, people prefer to get the cheaper options. This leaves the clothes and accessories of higher-end brands stocked in stores, and overall the value of them decreases
  • Harms the planet: The biggest threat fast-fashion poses is on the environment. There are billions of tonnes of clothes produced every year and disposed of too. Production of clothing produces a lot of physical, chemical, and energy waste. The other end of the supply-change, after-purchase stage, is also very wasteful and harmful for the environment. Clothes have microfibres in them that are not biodegradable and are also fatal to the oceanic ecosystem. Therefore, as the production increases, with higher demands, the waste increases too, causing a greater tension on the planet
  • Human rights violation: The second biggest downside of fast-fashion is that the companies are borderline offenders of human rights. The countries that are hosts of production facilities for the fast-fashion companies have harsh working environment, difficult and injurious workplace, and also have many cases of unpaid/underpaid labour

What now?

Although convenient, fast-fashion is doing more bad to the planet than good. Therefore, the final decision resides in the hands of the consumers (us!) whether we want to satisfy our desires at the cost of the planet or not. There is also a different way to approach this problem of limiting expenditure of fast-fashion, instead of moving away from it completely. However, there is also an option of completely banning oneself from buying fast-fashion by doing the following – repairing old items, upcycling old clothes, thrifting from stores, thrifting from friends and family, repeating outfits, and even converting to minimal closet trends.

– Pranjal Bhansali