Have you ever stood looking in at your closest for hours, trying to choose something to wear out in your jam-packed closest, yet still at a loss? Personally, I love to shop and I feel sometimes that’s all I spend my time and money on. Too many times I have been faced with the situation of constantly looking at boring and non-standout pieces to satisfy my wants. If your closet is the same, you are likely a shopper on the fast fashion train.
Fast fashion if you aren’t already aware, emerged in the late 20th century and has changed the way society consumes fashion. Fast fashion is best described as producing on trend fashion products to the consumers the fastest way possible. Brands started to compete amongst each other for market shares by introducing more collections per year. Traditionally the majority of fashion labels had two main collections a year, spring/summer and fall/winter. Today fashion labels can have up to 18 collections a year. From 2002, the amount of time and money people spend on shopping and buying new clothing pieces has jumped and the majority of people are spending a third of their disposable income on clothing. Globalization has grown rapidly since the 80’s and 90’s and has paved the way for value and mid price brands to shift the bulk of their production to the developing world where labor and overheads cost a fraction of those in the world.
This had several benefits to the fashion label companies. Firstly, it decreased their financial cost on forward orders and allowed flexibility in the decision making on their fashion items to come later on in the season. This in turn ensured the companies that they were able to react to the market quickly for the latest “on-trend” items. As a consumer, we loved this concept and this became the coming in the widespread of speeding up fashion.
Having a fast fashion concept was a great alternative to consumers rather than having to buy designer wear straight from the runway that would normally cost a fortune. Buyers these days do an excellent job of choosing alternative pieces straight from the runway that they believe will sell to us consumers, having them fast tracked made and before we know it are on the shelves in two weeks time. However, fast fashion induces people to continuously replace discount wardrobes. As a result, we tend to get less use out of each purchase. It may seem counterintuitive, but only by looking for cheap and fast, do we spend more and benefit less.
Zara is a perfect example of a Spanish retailer that has been on the fast fashion movement since the 1970’s. The company uses a quick response model of production is minimize the time between design and consumption. Other leading companies that are guilty of being on the fast fashion train are H&M, Forever21, JoeFresh, and Topshop follow the same production model.
Being on the factory side of the fast fashion concept isn’t so glamorous. Factory workers are definitely feeling the effects of this. They are under extreme amounts of pressure to get the product made and shipped out quickly to stores. Just last year the deadlines for the factory workers were about 90 days. This year the deadline timeslot decreased by about 30%, leaving the workers about 60 days to deliver the product and depending on the company sometimes it’s cut down to 45 days. Rather than 40,000 garments being manufactured across four styles 20 weeks at a rate of 500 per style per week, now all that is confirmed with the factory workers is the first five weeks across four styles at 500 per style per week. In the end this works out to a commitment of 10,000 garments and the remaining 30,000 garments is unknown. There’s no promise to the workers of how many styles should be produced or the manufacturing rate per week.
Not only does the fast fashion idea have an effect on the producers of the garments but also the amount of clothing people are consuming is having a major impact on our environment. With the life cycle of garments being so short lived, statistics show that on average about 70lbs of clothing and textiles per person is being sent to the landfill each year. Moreover, the synthetic textiles present particular problems in the landfills because these products will not decompose, while the woolen garments do decompose producing methane contributing to global warming.
So yes, while all of us fashion lovers love to shop, read glossy magazines that show off the newest and latest trends and watch the most glamorous fashion shows which we try to imitate, is fast fashion spiraling out of control? Rather than going out every weekend looking for a new outfit to wear for ladies night out or a hot date, we could focus on finding new ways to wear our garments that have been worn once and now are collecting dust in our wardrobes. There’s great DIY’s out there that show off different ideas on how to upgrade your old school jeans and even the boyfriend T-shirt that we normally wear to bed. Add some studs, tear off the pockets and sew some funky thread on those garments, be creative! I think we’d all be surprised to see just how similar we can make our “off-trend” garment pieces “on-trend” again without spending all our time and money in these fast fashion clothing stores.