Fast fashion, who wants it?

Let me preface this by saying I am not a sustainable-fashion angel sent down to Earth by the big (wo)man to set all of our fast-fashion wrongs, right....

I, too, have numerous items in my wardrobe from Zara, Cotton on and Nasty Gal (not proud of that one). I do not, however, own anything from Shein. Which honestly... makes me feel unnecessarily entitled even though I have no right to be.

So, fast-fashion, let's talk about it.

Firstly, what constitutes fast-fashion? What MAKES something "fast-fashion"?

WELL, according to Oxford Languages (Google define) fast fashion is: 

inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.

To put it really simply. Companies sample (I use this term loosely) clothing trends from runways and/or celebrity culture and turn them into garments as quick as possible in order to get them into stores and selling at the peak of their demand.

After a few wears, the trending item has usually exhausted its "coolness" and it's thrown away. Or, as is often the case, its poor quality makes it impossible to keep so it's discarded. 

Fast-fashion plays off the faux-pas mentality that you can only wear something ONCE. Somewhere down the line, we all decided that being seen in a "repeat" outfit is bad and that we always need to be wearing something new...

Isn't it like, insane, that we all think like that?! Like when you really conceptualise that idea, it is WILD. Like why would you EVER buy something knowing you'd only wear it ONCE?! 

 

How did fast-fashion come to be?

History lesson:

In the 1800's fashion was SLOW (obviously). Materials had to be sourced, like from a sheep or a cow.You weren't just going to Spotlight for fabric or whatever. Once the material was sourced it had to be woven/treated and then used to make a handmade garment.

When the Industrial Revolution came around, it brought in new technologies like sewing machines. With this invention, sewing obviously became a lot faster and easier. Eventually dressmaking shops started to emerge for the bougie (upper middle class).

Dressmaking shops eventually turned into garment working teams and around this time (we're in the early 1900's right now), what we know as modern day sweatshops started to pop-up.

By the time the 60s and 70s came around, young people were INTO fashion; expressing themselves and creating their own trends. 

By the time the 90s and 2000s rolled around, fast-fashion was at it's absolute prime. People were enthralled with the opportunity to dress fashionably at an affordable price. Online shopping also emerged around this time with immense popularity, which really solidified fast fashion. 

Not to name, names; but companies like H&M, Topshop and Zara figured out how to recreate designs from [ACTUAL] designers really quickly and cheaply - the rest is (literally) history!

What do they all have in common?

There's so many fast-fashion companies these days, but they usually have the same things in common:

  • quick turn around (like, REALLY quick)
  • thousands of trending styles 
  • offshore manufacturing where labour costs are extremely low*
  • Limited quantities (this concept was created by Zara, but not done by all companies) it creates a sense of urgency: "if I don't buy it now, it might not be here when I come back". 
  • New stock every few days
  • Cheap materials
*not all off-shore labour is bad, but that's for another day.

 

Why does any of it matter?

Right now the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

Faster consuming (purchasing) = faster production, which means environmental corners are usually cut. 

Cheap materials (ex: polyester) are, for all tense and purposes, made from fossil fuels, which obviously contributes to global warming. I've mentioned this before, but when you wash something like polyester, microplastics are released as a result. Then, you have the issue of cheap, toxic dye being leaked/disposed of into the environment. 

Natural fibres like cotton aren't always rainbows and butterflies, either. Conventional cotton requires a lottttt of pesticides and water treatment (usually in developing countries). But, I'm not going to go into this right now. Let's leave this rabbit hole for another day..

Not only is there an environmental cost, but there is a human cost, as well.

I hate to be the one to say it, but if you think someone like you is sewing your knitted jumper from Shein you are delusional. It's next to impossible to design (steal a design*), manufacture, pack/ship a jumper for $12.99. AND make enough money to pay the four sets of hands (however many people it takes) an ethical wage AND to leave the company with a profit. It's just not realistic...

So, what do we do?

I started this post with the preface that I am not a sustainable fashion God. And, I'm not! I have bits and pieces from all the companies I've mentioned (except shein, ha!). 

For the average person (me!) it's not economically possible to buy sustainable clothing all the time. I'll be the first person to say that I'm not always willing to spend big on items. BUT, there are a few things you can do to to contribute smarter to your fast-fashion consumption.

Firstly, ARE YOU ONLY GOING TO WEAR IT ONCE? If you are, maybe re-think it. Maybe hire it? Maybe borrow something? What's the point of spending $200 on a dress you're going to wear once? 

Secondly, SHOP SMARTER: Things that you wear a lot are worth spending on. For example: jeans, I think it's safe to assume the average person keeps their jeans for a few years, so that's a good investment (in my opinion)! 

Thirdly: Thrifting. I have found many gems at Vinnie's. Especially in Sydney, people are donating some good, quality stuff people, and we are SLEEPING on it. 

Fourthly: If you know you're going to get plenty of wear from a $50 dress from Zara then BUY it! Like seriously, if you love it, just buy it because you're. going. to. wear. it. 

One of my all-time favourite dresses was literally $49.00 from Zara two summers ago, and I can't tell you how many times I've worn it. The weekend we got married, I almost exclusively wore that dress, even though I had a suitcase full of more suitable "just-married" outfits. 

Something else you can do to keep the fast-fashion cycle down is donating your clothes to your friends/a clothing exchange or reselling them on places like Depop. 

 

At the end of the day...

I think being more aware is the biggest thing in the discussion of fast-fashion. Does it make sense that you can buy four shirts for $25.00? Do you think that company is really supporting their workers and not polluting the environment whilst they manufactured them? The average person can work the answer to that out pretty easily...

I can't see fast-fashion going anywhere anytime soon, but if we collectively navigate our shopping habits to be more calculated, it would have such a positive impact.

Also.... no one cares if you wear the same dress twice. 

 

 

(if Kate Middleton can repeat outfits, so can I)

 

 

 

 

 


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