Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Disposable Fashion - Has Fashion Become TOO Fast?

Disposable Fashion - Has Fashion Become TOO Fast?

In recent years there has been a strong shift in the way that consumers buy clothing. Fashion was once something for the elite, but is now accessible to everyone. Since the introduction of stores like H&M, Zara, and Topshop, people shopping in nearly any price range can access the latest fashions. These stores offer knock-offs and interpretations of all of the newest designer trends, sometimes within days of them being seen on the runways. These lower priced stores are known as disposable or fast fashion, due to the speed at which inventory comes and goes and how quickly fashions change. Fast fashion allows shoppers to constantly stay on trend and update their wardrobe on nearly a weekly basis. 87Fast fashion is considered by many to responsible for the growth in sales in the fashion industry over recent years. According to The Times Online as the price of clothing in the UK has dropped 25 per cent between 2003 and 2008, the amount of clothing purchased has grown by nearly 40 per cent.

With the current economy and price conscious consumers, disposable fashion’s biggest benefit is plain to see; More for less. Who doesn’t want to buy fashionable clothing at affordable prices? But what about the quality of these items, you ask? When buying such inexpensive items, quality isn’t as important. A new pair of boots might only last you one season, but because of the low price you can easily pick up next season’s hottest pair when they are worn out. Many of today’s consumers would rather have a closet full of inexpensive and easily replaced clothes, than own just a few expensive fashion staples, and fast fashion allows them to do just that.

Fast fashion allows consumers to keep up with ever changing trends, without worrying about their budgets. A trend item might only remain in fashion for a short time, but if it is purchased at a store like Topshop, the shopper won’t feel guilty about only wearing it a few times. Take a look at the red carpet and magazines; celebrities wouldn’t dare being seen wearing the same thing twice. While not quite as extreme, today’s shoppers have a similar viewpoint. They constantly want new things, and get bored more quickly than in the past. Fast fashion allows consumers to update their wardrobe more often. With disposable fashion, new items are constantly being added. Stores like Zara get new stock nearly every day. This allows shoppers to continuously update their wardrobe, replacing items as they see fit.

Another benefit of fast fashion is that it has resulted in many designers collaborating with lower priced stores in order to maintain their popularity. A group of people who would ordinarily never be able to afford clothing designed by Karl Lagerfeld, Victor & Rolf, or Roberto Cavalli were suddenly given the opportunity to wear clothing by these designers when they released exclusive lines at H&M. This not only boosts the store’s status, but also introduces a new group of shoppers to a designer they may not have known about. In the past, consumers who shopped for clothing on a budget were not considered fashion conscious or aware of designers. Fast fashion is certainly proving that idea wrong.

Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t the newest trends be available to everyone? The industry’s lower prices mean that fashion is accessible to more people, and that people can afford to buy more. While disposable fashion has won over thousands of shoppers, it brings on an army of complaints from people across the fashion and environmental industries.

…………..Environmentalists argue that disposable fashion is anything but environmentally friendly. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste reported that in 2005 nine million tonnes of clothing, footwear, towels, and bedding wound up in landfills. According to The Times Online over two million tonnes of clothing are purchased in the UK per year, and 74 per cent of that ends up in landfills. The Times Online also reported that these masses of clothing sent to landfills are mostly made of acrylic fabrics, which are chosen because of their low cost, but do not break down quickly or sometimes at all.

…………..The negative environmental effects do not end where the garments are purchased and disposed of. This pollution spreads back to where the garments and textiles are produced. As prices of clothing have become lower, production has been shifted to countries offering the lowest costs. China is the leader in production of clothing, producing 30 per cent of the world’s apparel according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database. In Pietra Rivoli’s novel, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, she discusses how the fashion manufacturing industry plays a large role in China’s pollution problem. Rivoli states that Americans purchase a billion garments per year that come from China. Maude Barlow, Canadian author and chair member of Food and Water Watch, revealed in 2008 that China had destroyed 80 per cent of its rivers through the use of chemicals and dyes used in the production of exported apparel. China is now facing water shortages due to the amount of toxins it releases into its water sources. This is due to the increase in Chinese production that the fast fashion movement brought on. Pietra Rivoli also reveals in her novel that Africa, India, Brazil, and Mexico are among other areas suffering from apparel industry related pollution. These countries manufacture apparel for such low costs, that they cannot afford to implement proper systems to reduce the environmental impact of production.

…………..Disposable fashion also draws criticism from the fashion industry. Fashion has become less exclusive, and buying a designer brand has lost some of the allure it previously held. Spending hundreds of dollars on a designer garment is much less appealing when the girl next to you on the subway purchased what looks like the same jacket for a fraction of the cost. Fashion and couture has long been a status symbol associated with the elite and cultured. Fast fashion has put an end to this, robbing designer fashion of its glamour. Some designers also feel that collaborating with budget stores is not a positive step, but rather something they are forced into in order to maintain their popularity and attempt to recruit future customers.

…………..With the current push for green living, including the recent rise in reusable shopping bags, energy efficient products, and going organic, the fashion industry remains to be an environmental threat. Is environmental responsibility enough to make consumers think twice about where they shop, or will price continue to win? Fast fashion may seem like affordable luxury; buy today, wear tomorrow, and forget about it next week, but the price must be seen in more than dollars and cents; the cost to the environment must be considered.

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