Where Did Fast Fashion Come From?
Sometime in the middle of the last century, fashion trends started moving a lot faster, and everyone, especially the youth, wanted to chase these trends.
To keep up with the growing demand for trendy clothes, fashion brands had to adapt and change the way they operated. This change led to the fast fashion industry, which would eventually grow into the juggernaut that it is today.
Through fast fashion, anyone could be fashionable and trendy without breaking the bank. But, for as much joy fast fashion has brought to people around the world, the industry has brought about large problems too.
The Problems Of Fast Fashion
One of fast fashion’s biggest issues came about as a side effect of providing affordable yet fashionable clothing – a side effect which came to be known as “throwaway culture”. Because of fast fashion, old clothes were thrown out either because new clothes quickly replaced them or because old clothes wore out faster than expected. Regardless, throwaway culture leads to unnecessary amounts of spent resources and waste.
The environmental impact of fast fashion clothing isn’t anything to scoff at either – a lot of clothes from big brands can’t be recycled because of the non-biodegradable polyester that’s used. Adding to that is the impact textile dyeing has had on water all around the world. In fact, textile dyeing is the second-largest contributor to water pollution! Also, the effects of these problems get even worse when you factor in just how much clothing gets produced using these materials and processes every day.
There’s also the issue of how garment workers are treated. A lot of the time, workers from these factories are subjected to poor working conditions and often have to work overtime in order to meet the demands of the fast fashion industry. And on top of all that, some of them don’t get paid enough to cover living expenses, and others don’t get paid at all!
All this goes to show that a hefty price had to be paid for the affordable nature of fast fashion – a price paid by the environment and the workers that make the clothes themselves.
The Big Brands Of Fast Fashion
With all that being said, these issues aren’t just being left unchecked. In fact, the biggest brands in the industry are making moves to address their immoral practices.
As the brand that inspired the term “fast fashion”, Zara is one of the biggest names in the fashion industry. Known for their beautiful stores, in-house designs, and affordable prices, consumers flock to Zara’s stores worldwide for a wide selection of trendy clothing.
Much like other fast fashion brands, they have a collection program that reuses and recycles donations from in-store and online customers. Zara also has an eco-friendly collection called “Join Life” that uses environmentally-friendly materials and aims to tie fast fashion and sustainability together. In addition to these initiatives, the brand has also committed to minimising waste and is even planning to stop filling landfills with their waste by 2025.
While not as big as Zara, H&M is still one of the world’s most recognisable fast fashion brands. Like other fast fashion brands, H&M is known for their line of affordable and trendy clothing, but in addition to that, the brand is also known for their annual designer collaborations.
Like Zara, H&M has a collection program and their own sustainable line of clothing known as the “Conscious Collection”. They’ve also announced goals to be more environmentally-conscious, including a promise to use only recycled materials in their products by 2030.
Uniqlo’s often considered a fast fashion brand like the other two in this list. However, it’s business model is slightly different. While they do also sell trendy clothing, Uniqlo focuses more on selling the basics at an affordable price, and this focus on wardrobe staples and good quality clothing have made them one of the most successful companies in the world.
On top of their more sustainable business model, Uniqlo also has programs similar to that of Zara and H&M. This includes a collection program, a commitment to sustainability, and even a promise to ensure that all their materials are ethically-sourced.
While the fast fashion industry has made efforts to curb their environmental impact, the same can’t be said for issues related to how workers are being treated.
A 2018 report revealed that H&M workers are forced to meet unrealistic production targets and are physically and sexually abused. Indonesian workers for Uniqlo have also claimed that they have yet to be paid their wages. To make matters worse, even if they were paid those wages, it’s not nearly enough to cover daily expenses.
With issues like these, even with all their major strides towards being more eco-friendly and sustainable, it’s clear that the fast fashion industry has a long way to go.
Fast fashion has been a double-edged sword – it’s made being fashionable an affordable endeavour, but only through costs paid by the garment workers and the environment. Thankfully, big brands have been taking steps towards making fast fashion more ethical and sustainable, so perhaps guilt-free and affordable fashion is still within reach!