The idea of fast fashion, whether brands admit to it or not, is that the clothes in our closets will only be worn a handful of times before being tossed out. While this is not a problem for the brands that create these clothes as they entice consumers back to their stores, it is a problem for the earth as many of these textiles are then donated or worse, simply thrown away. Another problem of fast fashion is the inhumane factories in which these pieces are made. From the over-cultivation of land for cotton to the harmful chemicals used that destroy the land, and waterways, and affect the health of garment workers, to the barbaric workshops that pay pennies to employees to mass produce cheap clothing for the west.
What is Fast-Fashion, anyways?
According to Dictionary.com fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. As a result of their ability to produce cheap & high volumes of clothing, consumers can update their wardrobes very quickly and affordably. This model of cheap and over-consumption of clothing is leading to an influx of textile waste, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources.
Why is Fast-Fashion a problem?
The goal with Fast Fashion is to mass-produce trendy garments (regardless of quality in construction or materials) & to get the consumer back in the store to buy more, often.
How do these brands do this? First, they use cheap, poor-quality fabrics and materials which tend to break down quickly. These fabrics are often inexpensive to produce and will easily get holes in them or simply fall apart when washed. Next, they focus on trend-forward designs meant to be worn for a season or as short as a week or two. By focusing on “trendy” styles, they bring the consumer back into the store again and again, so brands will frequently run “seasons” more often, for example, H&M, Zara, and other fast-fashion retailers have been known to produce and launch new clothing EVERY week. Doing so entices consumers to come back for the “newest” styles. Because these Fast-Fashion brands are focused on increasing sales time and time again versus creating a quality product, they are not worried about poor craftsmanship. Many garment makers around the world are paid per piece, and when you need a workshop to pump out 150 new styles each week and thousands of pieces for each style. The goal is to get the job done.
Fashion Brands & Retailers often boast about their ability to talk down the cost of goods from factories. Factories want the work and often accept these low-cost jobs so they don’t lose their relationships with fashion brands. Many times factories will outsource these extremely low-paying jobs to other factories with less scrupulous standards. And when fashion brands have been outed for using these sweatshops they often cry foul about not knowing what is going on. But in fact, they did talk the factory into such a low price point it wasn’t feasible to produce them. So, yeah fashion brands do know what they are doing and don’t care. These Fast-Fashion brands are concerned with quantity above all else. Don’t let their single page on their website using vague terms about sustainability make you think otherwise.
Fast Fashion is a problem for your wallet because you will constantly be buying clothing. The items you purchase will wear out or will be so trendy that they will quickly be out of style. For a consumer, access to new clothing constantly doesn’t seem like a problem. I hear time and time again from folks lamenting that they finally found their unicorn piece for their closet only for it to have come from a Fast-Fashion Brand and break down on them because of the fabric or poor quality construction. The never-ending supply of “new” isn’t a problem when your clothes are constantly failing you, getting ripped, a new hole here or there, or simply shrinking so badly your daughter’s doll can wear it now.