Fast fashion is a very big and important topic of discussion these days. From actual academic projects (guilty as charged – I’d based my whole final university project on the topic of fast fashion, personally) and even papers, to a lot of different worldwide organisations preaching about it, for one reason or another.
There are a lot of reasons to be discussing fast fasion, which are also the reasons behind me writing this article. They encompass everything, from questions of affordability, to the question of sustainability, which I think are important to discuss – especially if you’re a big fan of shopping, clothing and fashion in general, not unlike myself.
So let’s see to the positives, the negatives and the potential solutions of the fast fashion issues, shall we?
So let’s talk about the more personal aspects first.
If there’s one immediate obvious pro to fast fashion, it’s how affordable it is. Due to the quick schedules (in their attempts to sell everything, fast) and low costs of production, the products you observe and have the chance of purchasing in-store are naturally priced lower than most of the bigger names, regadless if they’re Guess levels of bigger, or Dolce & Gabbana levels of bigger.
It spreads over everything fast fashion brands (like H&M and Zara, for instance) sell – be it shoes, bags, accessories and even homeware, so. That’s good.
I know that this might seem like a questionable point, but hear me out.
A lot of people I know – including, but not limited to me – really love shopping, getting new clothes, wearing new clothes and whatnot. And that’s great – truly, fashion is a wonderful arena for self-expression and fun, and fast fashion really facilitates the process.
However, at the same time, that’s also bad. Fast fashion truly encourages shopping, by how affordable it is and how easily available it is everywhere. And I know that shopaholism sounds like a hilarious problem that basically just implies that some people just love shopping a bit more, but sometimes people go overboard, and it causes serious problems. Financial, too.
Positive: up with the trends
Fast fashion, due to its fast nature (ha!) is obviously good at not only keeping up with all the latest trends, but also at even setting them sometimes.
Because of how quickly the collections change, and how easily fast fashion brands imitate bigger, more expensive luxury brands, every single one of us – even those who can’t necessarily afford to keep up with all the expensive trends (like DIOR Visors? Sheesh) will most likely find the same thing in H&M, Forever 21 and many other brands very quickly.
Negative: bad for the environment
It’s… pretty bad, usually. It encourages the use of synthetic materials. Fake leather, for instance, has caused a major rise in pollution in the countries where it’s produced.
In addition, it’s also about how the customers use it. See, the problem here is that a lot of people wash their clothes way too often. With every wash, fabrics release countless numbers of microfibers into the water; the water from the wash, eventually, ends up in the nearby water channels.
That, in turn, contributes to the overall levels of pollution – quite greatly, in fact. And people, while realising that washing clothes way too often might be damaging to the fabric, don’t care as much because, well… it’s much cheaper than most things they could’ve bought, isn’t it?
Positive: allows for technology to evolve
This is something I’d read about in a The Manufacturing website article about the evolution of fast fashion and how it gets faster.
Basically, even if most garments are hand-stitched, some Western retailers that produce their garments in the West (more about this issue in the next point) integrate technology to the point where every hand-stitched item can be traced to the original worker that worked on it.
This is wonderful for multiple reasons: it allows people to get credit for their laborious work, it allows for multiple people to work on a clothing item without getting forgotten, and it allows for total transparency – just in case.
Negative: exploitation of workers
Ah, this. This is one of the most blaring and commonly known cons of fast fashion, right next to the environment issue, that always gets talked about when it comes to this topic.
And deservedly, rightfully so – a lot of fast fashion brands, in order to reduce the costs of production, move their factories to the less developed parts of the world, paying the workers barely anything while making them perform laborious, intensive work for many, many hours a day.
Brands used to get in trouble for using these kinda of sweatshops, like GAP back in the 90s, but now we’re back to stage one on this issue.
In addition, that also contributes to the environment issue, seen as in those low-paid factories, the workers deal with a lot of fabrics, chemicals and waste that is extremely toxic to our planet, but that obviously gets thrown out anyway.
In addition to all of the abovementioned issues, fast fashion has also generally changed the way people think about clothing and retail, somehow only looking at the price instead of thinking of quality and how long this item will last.
On the one hand, how long it’ll last is way less of a problem – because you’ll have similar items readily available in the nearest shopping centre, right? On the other hand – that’s precisely the problem. Maybe instead of buying cheaper clothing that will last you less time and you have to buy a new item after several wears you should invest into a more expensive item but end up spending less/the same in the end?
Regardless, even though it does offer some benefits, the negative sides are too dramatic to ignore. Try to look for ethical brands!