THE REAL COST OF FAST FASHION

Shopping for clothes used to be a privileged and occasional event— something that happened a few times a year when the seasons changed or when we outgrew what we had. However nowadays, clothes shopping has become part of our routine and we tend to incorporate it as part of our day to day life.


About 20 years ago, something changed within the fashion industry and market; clothes became cheaper, trend cycles sped up, the industry started manufacturing large quantities. Suddenly, shopping became a hobby. Fast forward 20 years, we now enter a world of what we call “fast fashion” and global chains that now dominate our high street and bombard our social media platforms. Have we ever really stopped to think what fast fashion really is? And how it has an impact on people, the planet, and animals?


Suddenly, you can wear the same “cool” and “fashionable” clothes as you're favourite artists, models or celebrities. All the clothes you buy, you buy under the influence of seeing them online. You will probably wear them a couple of times, but eventually you will stop, as if clothing had a deadline which you need to follow to be on trend. Something buyers don’t seem to notice are the tons of clothes they’ve collected over the years because they’ve stopped seeing them as trendy, and the effortless ease of walking down the street to your nearest store to purchase more and more is too tempting. Unfortunately, the marketing strategy of lowering prices works well with the customers. But is it worth it?

Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy, in-season clothing that samples ideas from the catwalks, celebrity culture, high-end fashion brands such as ‘Bottega Venetta’, ‘Prada’… and turns them into garments, essentially “copies”, in high street stores quickly and effortlessly to meet consumer demand. The strategy with fast fashion is to get the newest styles on the market as fast as possible, so shoppers can buy when still at their peak of popularity and demand. Sadly, it forms a key part of the toxic system of overproduction and consumption which has made the fashion industry one of the world’s larger polluters.


The speed of growth in this industry has pushed it too far. We need to understand that it all happened so fast thanks to the evolution of machinery and mass production. Before the 1800s, fashion was extremely slow and was considered something exclusive as you had to source your own material, like wool or leather, in order to prepare them, weave them and make the item of clothing.


Following the boom of the Industrial Revolution, and new machinery and technology such as sewing machines, clothes could be made more quickly, easily and a lot more cheaply. Not only that, but large companies that mass produce have hundreds and even thousands of workers working for them in large factories, known as cheap labour - ironic considering how fashion was considered a luxury. Cheap fashion can also be considered a very risky job. In 2013, the Rana Plaza clothing manufacturing complex in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,000 workers. This tragedy triggered a debate amongst consumers and got them questioning fast fashion as they wondered the real cost of manufacturing fast fashion.

Isabel L, Year 13

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