In the 1950’s, if a woman wanted to buy a ready-made dress, she was supposed to pay around $9 (equivalent to today’s $72) to order an item from a catalogue. Until the late 1990’s consumers had been purchasing new clothing at certain times a year (spring/summer or autumn/winter), and shopping for clothes was considered as a special event. However now, shopping has become more of an activity and it is as frequent as general household consumption, but how did this happen? How did our consumer habits change so significantly?
Here is all you need to know.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends, and the collections are often based on designs presented at Fashion Weeks. Fast fashion lets shoppers buy trendy and clothes at very affordable price.
Fast fashion is defined as clothing designs that quickly move from idea to to mass production, and available to consumers within weeks.
The reasons why fast fashion became so popular are the cheap prices, an increased appetite for staying trendy and increased purchasing power of consumers. These factors challenged traditional fashion houses that were introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis. However, it is very common in fast fashion to introduce new trends multiple times, perhaps even in a week. This condition allows people to stay within trends and feel as if they are wearing the same garments at fashion events.
Innovations in supply chain management made fast fashion even faster. This innovation led to production of cost-efficient fashion items quickly which eventually meets the expectation of high fashion for low price. The speed at which fast fashion is happening requires a mutually beneficial relationship between manufacturers and consumers. As the consumer behavior expert Michael Solomon told Vox: “Fast fashion’s development falls in line with globalization and the logistical efficiency of the 21st century… Companies weren’t able to have such a quick turnaround time, and now with artificial intelligence, they can be more efficient.”
According to a report by Coresight Research, Missguided releases about 1,000 new products monthly, and Fashion Nova introduces from 600 to 900 styles a week. Hundreds of varieties of choices, designs inspired by luxury fashion designers at ridiculously lower prices and fast changing trends makes consumers to get easily attracted and turn a blind eye to the costs of fast fashion.
Of course, social media and the ability to post images in different clothing outfits daily has not helped the situation. It also leads to social media followers wanting to copy trends and stay up to date. ‘Clothing hauls’ are very common videos posted by social media influencers, where followers can see how many items were bought from particular brands. Usually these videos are sponsored by brands and encourage viewers to buy at their stores.
What advantages does Fast Fashion bring?
Not surprisingly, fast fashion is advantageous mostly for retailers and businesses. Continuous introduction of new products encourages customers to be in stores more often, and this increases purchases. Fast fashion helps retailers and fashion brands to sustain higher inventory turnover as customers buy items quickly, in case they won’t be available for a long period of time.
Fast fashion is really advantageous from a profit perspective as companies make more profit due to the speed. For example, when there are any losses, companies will introduce new collections in order to recover the losses quickly. That is just because clothing is so cheap, and consumers are easily kept in stores to purchase.
What disadvantages does Fast Fashion bring?
The answer for this question is not as straightforward as the one for advantages. Fast fashion brings many unfortunate drawbacks, but the most important one is its impact on the working standards, the environment, ecosystem and the atmosphere.
Environmental issues created by fast fashion are alone more than enough to slow down the industry and take action. There are so many issues about the environmental costs to point out. The most obvious and popular one is the waste produced by the industry to oceans and landfills. “Buying clothing, and treating it as if it is disposable, is putting a huge added weight on the environment and is simply unsustainable…” stated Elizabeth L. Cline, the writer of a book called “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”.
In the UK alone, according to North London Waste Association, 10.000 items of clothing are sent to landfill every five minutes, equivalent to £140 million in value every year. However, it is not only the final product, but also the raw materials are going into waste too. For example, 5,700 liters of water are needed to make one pair of jeans. The research made by S. Weber, J. Lynes and S. Young in 2017, despite the fact that most fashion textiles are 100% recyclable, the vast majority (85%) of all textiles in the US end-up in landfills. Within a 10-year span, post-consumer textile waste in the US increased 40%, from 8.3 million tons in 1999 to 11.3 million tons in 2009. Most textiles ending up in landfills could have been recycled or reused; however, only 9% of it is recycled or reused (Gupta, Gwozdz, Gentry 2019). In the US, an individual throws away 68 pounds of textiles per year. Another shocking fact: in Sweden, more than 50% of clothing purchased goes to landfills and incinerators.
Another main disadvantage is the carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint of the industry. Based on research by Allwood, Laursen, De Rodriguez and Bocken (2006), about 989 thousand tons of oil equivalent primary energy is used in the industry and about 3.1 million tons of CO2 equivalent is emitted to air. In the same research, it is also mentioned that purchasing a 250g cotton T-shirt implies purchasing 1,700g of fossil fuel, depositing 450g of waste to landﬁll and emitting 4kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. Moreover, incineration of the unsold items by fashion companies also produces a dramatic amount of CO2 to the atmosphere. Due to the incineration of unsold items in inventories, the French government has planned a new law against the fashion giants who are involved in. Currently the fashion industry due to the ultrafast production suffers from an “inventory crisis” caused by COVID-19 lockdown, which keeps shoppers at home, out of the stores.
Other than environmental issues, fast fashion results in production of low-quality items which sees a short lifespan. But unfortunately, we are not even conscious of the situation as we are not investing in it monetarily. This situation consequently leads to cost us more than we expect, instead of buying few durable and high-quality products we choose to buy low-quality and the less durable products for cheaper prices. Short lifetime of low-quality products makes our purchase even more frequent and that relatively costs more money than high-quality products.
What ethical and sustainable fashion companies stand up for a better Fashion?
Since the 21st century started, many sustainable innovations not only in the fashion sector but also in other sectors have developed. Here are some examples of those fashion and textile companies which are promising to change the fashion world.
Orange Fiber. The company is based in Italy and produces a natural fiber made from citrus by-products. The fiber is enriched through nanotechnology methods with citrus fruit oils, making a unique and sustainable fabric.
Algiknit. The company manufacturers textile fibers from kelp, a type of seaweed. The final knitwear is sustainable and biodegradable as well as can be dyed with natural pigments.
Pangaia. This company uses bio-fibers and recycled plastic bottles to make colorful tracksuits. Durability and quality of the fabric makes items last longer.
House of Sunny. It is a London-based company and introduces just two seasonal collections annually. Denim is washed using e-flow technology reducing the amount of water used and wasted and materials are recycled.
Girlfriend Collective. Each pair of American brand Girlfriend Collective leggings and cycling shorts starts with 25 post-consumer recycled water bottles collected and sourced in Taiwan and ends with a spun fabric that is softer and more stable than a single-knit jersey, The Guardian reported.
Fortunately, we can add many more to this list, and this gives us a reason and hope that we can all together change fashion for the better.
How Kleiderly takes action?
Recycling, up cycling and circular economy thinking will be the solution for the industry and our planet, and this is simply what Kleiderly does. At Kleiderly, we fight the environmental impact of fast fashion by converting the fashion and textile waste into very sustainable material.
To know more about Kleiderly, check our website out.
What can be done individually by us ?
Apart from the companies who stand up to change the current fashion world, we individually can take actions for a better environment, industry and future. We should firstly understand it is about quality not quantity. For example, the average lifespan of a garment is 3 years, and wearing one item 9 months more can reduce its carbon footprint by 20-30%, reported WRAP UK. We need to try to buy durable and long lasting items based on our needs, and this will help us to avoid increasing our disposals.
To get to know the techniques on how to live a more sustainable life while maintaining a stylish look, check out our 10 things to do with your unwanted clothes and KonMari technique posts for your sustainable wardrobe.
Gupta, Shipra; Gwozdz, Wencke; Gentry, James. (2019): The Role of Style Versus Fashion
Orientation on Sustainable Apparel Consumption, in: Journal of Macromarketing 39 (2):
Weber, Sabine; Lynes, Jennifer; Young, Steven B. (2017); Fashion interest as a driver for
consumer textile waste management: reuse, recycle or disposal, in: International Journal of
Consumer Studies. 41 (2): 207-215