Fast Fashion: What Is It? Why Is It So Bad?

Fast Fashion: What Is It? Why Is It So Bad?

Rapid fashion is a relatively recent phenomena in the sector that damages workers, animals, and the environment severely. Here are some good reasons to avoid them whenever you can.

Tragic reality check for the fashion industry

When the seasons changed or we outgrew our clothing, going shopping for clothes used to be a rare occurrence that happened a few times a year. But something changed approximately 20 years ago. The cost of clothing decreased, fashion cycles accelerated, and hobby shopping emerged. The worldwide chains that now rule our high streets and online shopping are fast fashion.


In the oughties, everything seemed too good to be true. There are so many shops selling hip, stylish clothing that you could buy with your spare change, wear a few times, and then discard. Everyone at once has the means to dress like their favorite star or to sport the newest catwalk trends.

But, in 2013, when the Rana Plaza garment manufacturing facility in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,000 employees, the world received a reality check. At that point, consumers really began to scrutinize quick fashion and wonder what those $5 t-shirts actually cost. It’s possible that if you’re reading this, you already know about the negative aspects of fast fashion, but it’s still important to understand how they came to be and what we can do to help change it.


Fast fashion: what is it?

Fast fashion is characterized as low-cost, trendy clothes that quickly responds to customer demand by stealing design cues from the catwalk or celebrity culture and putting them on the high street. The goal is to launch the newest trends as soon as possible so that consumers can buy them while they are still quite fashionable and then, regrettably, abandon them after a few wears. It supports the notion that wearing the same clothing repeatedly is a fashion faux pas and that if you want to look current, you must wear the newest trends as soon as they emerge. It is a crucial component of the harmful system of excessive production and consumption that has made fashion one of the worst pollutants in the world. Let’s take a look at the past before we attempt to change it.

What caused quick fashion?

We need to go back in time a little bit to understand how rapid fashion came to be. The 1800s saw a slowdown in fashion. You had to gather your own supplies of leather or wool, prepare them, weave the materials, and then create the clothing. The invention of new technologies, such as the sewing machine, occurred during the Industrial Revolution. Making clothes grew quicker, simpler, and less expensive. Many dressmaking businesses arose to serve the middle classes.


Fast-fashion businesses like H&M, Zara, and Topshop took over the high street while online shopping boomed. These companies swiftly and inexpensively replicated the styles and design components from the leading fashion houses. It’s simple to understand how the phenomenon spread given that everyone has access to on-trend clothing whenever they want.

How to identify quick fashion companies

Some crucial elements characterize rapid fashion companies:


  • There are thousands of styles, covering all the most recent trends.
  • Very little time passes from the time a trend or item is visible on the catwalk or in celebrity media and the time it is available in stores.
  • Offshore manufacturing uses low-wage workers without adequate rights or safety measures, as well as complex supply chains with limited visibility past the first tier, where labor is most affordable.
  • Zara invented the concept of having only a certain amount of a particular item of clothing. Customers are aware that if they don’t buy anything they like, they’ll probably miss their chance because new stuff is constantly appearing in stores.

Why is quick fashion undesirable?

damaging our environment

The environmental effects of fast fashion are significant. Due to the pressure to minimize costs and increase output, environmental safeguards are more likely to be compromised. The use of inexpensive, hazardous textile dyes, a byproduct of fast fashion, makes it one of the worst worldwide pollutants of pure water, right up there with agriculture. That’s why Greenpeace has been pressuring brands to remove dangerous chemicals from their supply chains through its detoxing fashion campaigns through the years.

Due to the constant speed and demand, other environmental sectors such as soil quality, biodiversity, and land clearing are under more pressure. In addition to having an adverse effect on the environment, the tanning of animal hides adds 300 kg of chemicals for every 900 kg of animal hides. A significant amount of textile waste is produced due to the speed at which clothing is manufactured and the increasing number of clothes that consumers discard. Statistics indicate that every year, more than 500 million kilos of unwanted clothing are disposed of in landfills in Australia alone.


Exploiting employees

Fast fashion has a human cost in addition to environmental costs.

Rapid fashion has an influence on garment workers who are deprived of basic human rights, labor in hazardous conditions, and earn inadequate wages. The documentary “The Real Cost” brought attention to the situation of farmers further down the food chain who may operate with harmful chemicals and cruel techniques that can have catastrophic effects on their physical and mental health.


Consumer coercion

Finally, because of the products’ inherent obsolescence and the speed at which trends change, fast fashion has an effect on the consumers themselves by promoting a “throw-away” culture. Rapid fashion creates a perpetual sense of need and ultimately leads to discontent by leading us to believe we must shop more and more to keep up with trends. On the basis of intellectual property, the movement has also drawn criticism. Some designers claim that stores have illegally mass-produced their creations.


Who are the key figures?

Several of the big fast fashion businesses that we are familiar with today, like Zara or H&M, were first modest shops in Europe in the 1950s. As it began as Hennes in Sweden in 1947, expanded to London in 1976, and soon after, the United States in 2000, H&M is the oldest of the fast fashion behemoths.

In today’s fast fashion, other well-known brands include UNIQLO, GAP, Primark, and TopShop. Despite the fact that SHEIN, Missguided, Forever 21, Zaful, Boohoo, and Fashion Nova are now even more affordable and quicker alternatives to these once-disruptive businesses, they were once regarded as being shockingly inexpensive. These companies are referred to as ultra fast fashion, a contemporary trend that is as offensive as it sounds.


Is fast fashion in decline?

The fashion industry is starting to evolve in a few ways. Now known as Fashion Revolution Week, the anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza serves as a platform for global dialogue about issues such as “Who created my clothes?” and “What’s in my clothes?” According to Fashion Revolution, “we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or ruin the environment.”

It’s possible that Millennials and Gen Zers—the generation driving the future economy—haven’t caught the quick fashion bug. This generation has “become too sophisticated for mindless consumerism, driving producers to become more ethical, more inclusive, and more liberal,” according to others.

A more circular approach to textile production, which involves reusing materials whenever possible, is also gaining popularity. Sustainable fashion was the focus of entire magazine issues in 2018 for Vogue Australia and Elle UK, two publications that have been embracing the trend more and more each year.


How can we help?

The first approach is to buy less. Next, attempt to rediscover your passion for the clothing you already have by styling it differently or even “flipping” it. Why not upcycle those worn-out jeans into some stylish unhemmed shorts or make a crop out of that slouchy old sweater? On your journey toward ethical fashion, building a capsule wardrobe is something else to take into account.

The second step is to Select Properly, and here selecting an eco-friendly outfit of superior quality is crucial. All fiber kinds have advantages and disadvantages, as shown in our comprehensive guide to garment materials, however there is a useful chart at the conclusion to use when making a purchase. A commitment to shopping your own closet first, to just buying used items, or to backing more environmentally friendly brands like those listed below are further examples of making wise choices.


Last but not least, we should Make It Last and take care of our clothing by following the care instructions, using it until it is worn out, patching it where possible, and then ethically recycling it at the end of its useful life.


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