Fast Fashion: We Should Be Furious
BY FIRST LAST '2?
From $500 Shein hauls to knockoff House of Sunny dresses surfacing in Goodwill bins, fast fashion has taken over the fashion world. Brands like Zara dominate the consumer market, with flashy advertisements luring shoppers to open their wallets. Although this enticing market offers a wide range of trends at a bargain, what is the true price of discount vogue?
Simply put, fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method built to rapidly produce high volumes of clothing. Because their goal is to make high fashion trends easily accessible to the public, companies lower production costs by utilizing cheap materials and underpaying workers. Social media’s growing influence on consumer behavior has popularized this multi-million dollar market; buyers rely on fast fashion to adapt to modern trend cycles, making it critical to understand and circumvent the industry’s appeal.
Like any other industry, the world of clothing evolves alongside the social climate. Recently, trend lifespans have contracted; microtrends, which recede within five years, have crowded out long-lasting macrotrends, such as bell bottoms in the 70’s or bandanas in the 2000’s. Social media’s newfound role in fashion has fueled these trends: previously, movies and magazines introduced off-the-runway couture, and trendsetting remained exclusive to experts. Today, however, companies oversaturate users’ feeds, generating pressure to keep up with microtrends. Consequently, consumers migrate to fast fashion companies like Shein and YesStyle, which offer many cheap, trendy products. However, these websites’ so-called deals encourage unnecessary purchases, creating a cycle of overconsumption and waste. While social media allows innovative designers to advertise for free and has popularized upcycling and thrifting, it also compromises sustainability and encourages people to toss outdated clothes to adapt to weekly trends.
Beyond inciting wasteful spending, the fast fashion industry is notoriously unethical— outsourced production enables unchecked environment and labor abuses. Still, practical reasons exist for the industry’s success. Although some brands have joined the “slow fashion” movement by producing eco-friendly pieces, their products are pricier, compensating for the cost of quality control and fair wages. For many consumers, this cannot compete with fast fashion’s affordability and convenience. Consumerism provides funding, but the companies are ultimately at fault for prioritizing profit over ethicality; their growth relies upon the exploitation of workers, small designers, and the consumer. Nevertheless, shoppers too often argue “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” as an excuse for fast fashion splurges. While most million dollar corporations refuse to shift away from profit-orientated models, the greatest force of change often occurs at an individual level.
Adjustments in consumption habits have shown a promising start for a greener fashion industry. For example, you can begin developing sustainable shopping habits by investing in quality pieces. Do research and choose eco-friendly brands; from there, select products that can evolve with your wardrobe. Timeless styles are usually adaptable, such as neutral coats or black handbags, whereas short-lived trends are less versatile; if you’re looking for statement pieces, choose styles that come in and out of style often, like neon windbreakers or plaid pants. Additionally, donate instead of throwing outgrown clothing away and read up on fashion theory such as Laver’s Law or the 20-year trend cycle to aid your future purchases. Occasionally indulging in retail therapy is inevitable, so thrifting may be another option to avoid falling into the fast fashion trap. Your local Goodwill offers a selection of reasonably-priced vintage styles, and apps like Depop and Poshmark can help revamp your wardrobe without producing environmental waste.
Although sustainability is glamorized by influencers and buying eco-friendly clothing is a luxury few can afford, environmental consciousness can be practical. It may be as simple as resisting the urge to buy that cute tank top you saw on Pinterest, or digging around in your parents’ closet for hand-me-downs. Fashion has long been an important outlet of creativity, and sourcing clothes ethically will not hinder you from expressing yourself with proper research and good habits. Surround yourself with positivity, quite literally.