Getting to Know Fast Fashion

The fashion world as we know it today first prevailed in the late 90’s and has continued to gain momentum with the likes of Zara and H&M spearheading the movement. Globalisation has made it possible to condense lead times, and product cycles are now as short as 4-6 weeks from design to production to arriving in store and landing in your wardrobe. And with most major retailers introducing new product on a weekly basis the cycle is never ending. 

Gone are the days when a fashion season aligned with the traditional seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Our fast moving market now demands consumers to move on to the next best thing weekly. These effects are even impacting the high fashion market with a shift in the role that runway shows and social media play in the industry and the timing of presenting their collections…one intention being to ward off high street knockoffs which can sometimes end up in store earlier than the original. Now I know most of us aren’t in the position to even consider a high fashion purchase nor would a lot of us even want to. But it is worth remembering these players as they are the true creatives in the industry who move fashion into the realm of art.  

So with trends moving in and out so quickly, most of which are resurrected with a new spin year after year, we are faced with a reason to continuously invest in new clothing. And not necessarily because we need it but because society deems us to fit in if we are current in our fashion choices, or because we have been lead to believe that these purchases will bring us happiness. If only we fully understood the price we are paying for one short moment of euphoria, because the price tag is far from a true reflection of this.

Everyone loves a “good deal”, a “bargain”, and price is understandably the driving factor behind most of our purchases, fashion and otherwise. Reduction in price has been one of the most significant changes brought by fast fashion, so much so that our purchase decision process has become little to none because of the low numbers on price tags. The only other product segment that has managed to decrease its prices over the years is technology. What we don’t realise is that technology doesn’t yet play a major role in the fashion industry and while some of us might assume a production line consists mostly of machinery it is actually made up of people. These dramatic decreases in the price we pay for fashion have resulted in the majority of global clothing exports coming out of developing countries in order to take advantage of low labour costs.

“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying.” - Lucy Siegle, Author & Journalist

The global apparel market is now a 3 trillion dollar industry and our shopping habits continue to line the pockets of multinational corporations. And they continue to provide us with a reason to want to purchase and keep up appearances. But this all comes at a cost to the environment and those involved in the production of textiles and garments. 

While price will always be a factor in our fashion purchases we should not mistake low price tags as an indication that overconsumption is ok. Our wardrobes should consist of considered purchases that reflect us and our needs not just the latest trends. Cheap has become more of a no choice than we realise and we need to start by turning our current sprint into a slow jog.