Fast Fashion 101

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the first official post for my capstone project. I figured if we’re going to talk about fast fashion, we need to start with the basics in order to fully understand and grasp what fast fashion even is.

In the dictionary, fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” This definition does a good job at giving you an overview about what fast fashion is, but it’s also important to note what they mean by rapidly producing clothing. Typically, high-end fashion brands will produce and bring out four seasons of clothing per year. These are typically divided into the seasons of the weather, so there’s pre-spring, spring/summer, pre-fall, and fall/winter. As you can see on the runway and at events like Fashion Week, it’s not too common for there to be another “season” of clothing; what is presented will generally fall under one of the main four seasons I listed. Now, this is where we can understand the scope of how rapid fast fashion really is. Fast fashion retailers have about 52 “micro-seasons” a year. Micro-seasons are just what they sound like – a collection of clothing that relates to a very short season. And trust me, these seasons are very short, especially given the fact that fast fashion retailers have a new micro-season every week.

The clothing that is made for these micro-seasons is not meant to last long. To be honest, most of the clothing produced is made with the cheapest materials possible and is meant to no longer be worn after a handful of times. This is because retailers want you to buy into the consumerism and, ultimately, spend as much money as possible (yay, capitalism!).

Another big issue about fast fashion that I need to address in here (and that you’ve already probably assumed) is that it is so detrimental to the environment. As mentioned above, the materials used for fast fashion isn’t of good quality and is meant to fall apart. This means that there is an abundance of fast fashion waste because these materials are not sustainable and eco-friendly. Much of the fabric from these products cannot be broken down, meaning that it will sit in landfills and, ultimately, add to even more waste in the environment over time. According to Fast Company, there is an expected 160 million ton of clothes in landfills by 2050 if we keep our consumer habits the same.

Something else to keep in mind is the exploitation of workers that happens from fast fashion. The production side of fashion can be messy, especially when it comes to fast fashion because garment workers make nowhere near a minimum or living wage. Typically, garment workers will receive 2-6 cents for every piece they make and will work for more than 8 hours at a time. Additionally, these garment workers are typically immigrants who are women or young children. They’ve been promised that if they work at these factories they will have a better life, but the sad fact is that working conditions are a huge hazard. In Bangladesh in 2013, a whole building known as the Rana Factory collapsed while workers were inside. It resulted in many deaths and injuries, and became well-known as an example of the working conditions these garment workers are in. While the collapse was just one instance of the unsafe working conditions, there are plenty of other examples of the same thing happening year after year in the fast fashion industry. I’m going to go into details about unsafe working conditions and underage child labor in the industry, but those will be saved for another post.

I hope what I’ve explained so far makes sense in terms of why fast fashion is problematic and how it’s hurting individuals and the environment.

Feel free to leave any questions you have about anything I’ve mentioned in the comments below, and I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability and/or point you in the direction of a resource that can help clarify.

Stay tuned for another post going into even more detail!

-Emily Berrol

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