Updated: Oct 24, 2019
It feels almost impossible to avoid fast fashion because it has transformed the fashion industry into a world of cheap, over-produced clothing that is intentionally created to fall apart.
What is Fast Fashion exactly?
Fast fashion is the transformation of the fashion industry into cheap, trendy clothing that samples aesthetics from the catwalk, celebrity culture, social media trends and more into intentionally very very low quality clothing at the speed of light delivered to high street stores multiple times a week.
A huge amount of the clothing out there comes from brands that could be considered "fast fashion"
Fast fashion is all about creating the cheapest price of trend driven clothing that a company can produce. Trends aren't a bad thing in theory, but in reality they kinda are. Yes, they are cute BUT they are ever changing to encourage shoppers to want to shop constantly. That is why when you go into a clothing store one day and then go back a week later (or a couple days even) there is a completely different inventory throughout the store.
They want you to feel like the clothing that was in there last week is "old" and you must buy what is current and new.
Fast fashion clothing is also designed and produced to be disposable. Yes, you read that correctly. The clothing is literally made to the lowest quality as possible so it falls apart and the consumer is forced to buy something new and throw out the "old".
The low quality isn't in just its construction either, but everything down to the yarn that is picked to be woven or knit into the fabric that will become garments. Everything is made to NOT last.
Everything, like everything else revolves around money and the companies want to produce the cheapest clothing they can, so the cheap quality trickles down to the fibers, yarn, fabric, trim, technologies and factories. Then because everything chosen is the lowest of the lowest, they also pick factories with very low skilled workers (BTW being paid unfairly, forced labor, child labor, human trafficking. The list goes on and on) in factories that are in no way a workable environment. Sometimes factories do not even have bathrooms for their workers and rarely have safety measures when dealing with toxic dye chemicals or techniques.
In America, there would be in an uproar if our citizens were working in conditions like this, and although we can not directly see it, we are still contributing to it.
How did this happen?
So this way of fashion has drastically shifted in the last 20 years or so, but it was a slow process that slowly but surely developed over time (similar to the downfall of our food industry).
A quick lil history tour for ya:
Before the 1800's fashion was extremely slow because people had to source their own materials/fibers, prepare them, weave them and make their own clothing.
Then when the Industrial Revolution happened and introduced new technologies like sewing machines, clothing production became A LOT easier, obviously. This of course made clothing cheaper and quicker to make and eventually sweatshops emerged which resembled similar safety issues of the factories of today. The first major garment factory disaster was a fire in the New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. 146 female garment workers died that day. After that, work was sent over seas because it was cheaper and it became the go-to way of production. The epitome of out of sight, out of mind. Another major disaster occurred in 2013 in Bangladesh. There was a structural failure in a fast fashion factory. The factory was not structurally able to hold as much equipment and workers as it was, but they did it anyways because they wanted the production business and companies we shop at everyday turned a blind eye to this and many issues like it. Although they were aware of the issues, people were forced to go into work anyways; sadly the building collapsed and over 1000 people died. Like I mentioned, it was full of garment workers making clothing for a lot of the top brands we all wear. People may assume it’s not actually people making your clothing and maybe it’s machines doing it and that is what makes a lot of clothing so damn cheap, but that’s not the case. People are still making your clothes.
In the 1990's and early 2000's low quality, fast fashion started to really sky rocket. Online shopping emerged and big retailers like H&M and Forever 21 became the norm and took over high street fashion. When the everyday women was able to be on trend and look like she just walked off the runway for a cheap cost, this phenomenon of course quickly caught on and kept growing and growing and growing and has now completely highjacked the fashion industry.
The fashion world used to run on 4 seasons a year based on how the Couture Fashion House's ran. Now, there are 11-20 (probably more in some cases) and they aren't even considered seasons anymore, because they are based on delivery dates instead!
Companies try to produce as much product as they possibly can so the store is ever changing. This constant change makes us as consumers want to shop more because we know that there is this promised possibility that the store will have more new and very different product than they did last week.
The Trail Of Your Fast Fashion Garment
We have been trained to shop the clearance and sale racks thinking we are getting a deal, but in reality the original mark up could have been up to 80% and when marked down it will rarely if ever go below a 40% mark up. Which is obviously good for the company (which isn't a bad thing, because a company should make money BUT that just shows how cheap they are able to produce the product in the first place, especially when your t-shirt cost less than your lunch did) Then if the product is not purchased off of the clearance rack it will then be dumped into a landfill OR EVEN BURNED, and sometimes donated (which still ends up in landfills anyways!)
Then the consumer buys it and because it is so low quality and turns into a rag after one wash, or completely changes size/shape after a month it ends up inevitably being thrown away. This is how the disposable view of clothing has become so pervasive today. The consumer is trained to just keep shopping and throwing away and shopping and throwing away. So regardless the product is ending up in landfills more than they are being worn. You would think we would have caught on to this on a personal level of "Hmmm...hey, I keep buying cheap crap that falls apart on me and have to run back to the store a week later..something seems off, maybe I shouldn't buy that crap anymore" BUT we are all just humans and the fast fashion industry does an amazing job of marketing to us in such a specific way that we don't ever get to that thought, because we are distracted by the excitement of the newest, cutest trend that just came out.
Another huge issue is that donating isn't as charitable as we would like to believe it is. If the consumer or company donates clothing and it doesn't actually get sold, and the thrift store has too much then it gets thrown away OR sent to developing countries. Which also SOUNDS like a nice thing, but it is actually a terrible thing. The clothing usually gets dumped in Africa and sometimes Asia. This is a bad thing because when we send boat loads of cheap product to these countries it hurts their economy dramatically. All of the sudden they can get clothing for free or as low as a $1, and so naturally they are going to choose that instead of going to their local stores and seamstresses for clothing. Which ends up ruining their economy and making them heavily rely on our left overs.
The Impact of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has a huge impact on the planet, people, our daily lives and confidence.
The pressures to produce quick clothing at the cheapest cost means ethical and environmental corners get cut. The negative impact of the production, retail and the consumer is a vicious cycle.
The impact of fast fashion is terrible for our planet, people, oceans, and animals.
The toxic dyes, fabrics made from fossil fuels, pollution, landfill growth, water waste, economic distress and the destruction of our mindset towards clothing are all terrible results of the fashion industry.
How Does This Affect You Directly
I am very aware and truly believe that people do not change habits or their minds based on knowledge alone. People change when something personally affects them. Fast fashion is a hard mission to share and get people on board with because of the immediate "good" feelings people get when they can shop cheap and fast and trendy, but unfortunately cheap clothing is like sugar or greasy pizza. It feels great in the moment but ten minutes later you are wishing things went a little differently.
Ya ya, everything in life these days seems to me unethical, bad for us and bad for the planet and/or is just about to give us cancer. I get the distaste of being told ANOTHER part of your daily habits and life are bad for the planet, culture and self. It creates an overwhelming feeling that can make people shut down and avoid gaining any more knowledge about such issues, but like food, fashion/clothing directly affects you and the planet you inhabit.
Fast fashion has encouraged a throw-away culture and hurts our mindsets and lives on a daily basis. As consumers we end up with soooo much stuff we do not need and the stress and time it takes to deal with it takes us away from things we really want to be doing and large amounts of money on low cost items that don't serve us properly.
I understand first hand how good it feels to buy something super fun and cute at a cheap cost. It makes us feel like we are saving money and gaining more, but we really aren't. We tend to buy based on the trend and not based on how it actually feels, looks or fits our bodies. This results in a closet full of low quality, ill fitting, itchy items we don't love or feel super confident in. Some of us don't even realize our confidence, comfort or mood is being affected by our clothes because fast fashion has saturated the market so heavily, we don't know any better and don't know our true personal style.
When it comes to our clothing we have become very unintentional and that is a domino affect to other areas of our lives. We then unknowingly become subconsciously unintentional about how we care for our clothing and house hold which results in not caring for ourselves properly.
Take a moment to really reflect on how your shopping habits, clothes or your jam packed closet is making you feel. I bet you will be surprised with what you come up with.
Okay, This All Sucks...What Can We All Do About It?
I know this is extremely overwhelming and it feels like the world is doomed, but it is not! I promise! There are small things you can do in your life to make a difference. Nothing will change over night. Huge, integrated systems like the fast fashion industry will not change on their own either, so, the only place we can control is with ourselves and our habits.
Tips To Combat The Disposable View Of Clothing:
- Make a mindset shift and stop looking at your clothing like something you can just get rid of. Think of it as more of an investment.
- Avoid impulse shopping. Shop with a plan and don't over buy.
- Do not buy something just because it is cheap. Buy because you really love it/need it.
- Ask yourself these 5 questions before buying something // Click Here
- Avoid fast fashion brands or businesses that do not disclose their production process or the people behind the brand. If there isn't an about page on the website that is probably a bad sign.
- Shop locally made, local designers and local jewelry makers. Shop local and small!
- Shop thrift stores and consignment stores or secondhand apps (Ex. Poshmark)
- If you love trends and love getting new clothes constantly, try rental companies like Le Tote. Rental companies give you the ability to have new and nice quality clothes every month.
- Mind your style! Don't try to chase every trend out there. Stick to your style and what fits your body and life well. Accessories can make a world of difference for changing up outfits.
- Quality over quantity. Pay attention to the materials, care instructions, condition of the garment's seams, hems and fabric quality. If it looks cheap or feels cheap, it wont last you cus it is cheap.
- If you are going to shop at fast fashion places anyways, make sure you do not shop items that need to be washed very often like sweatshirts, tees, leggings, work out clothes or anything that could be considered a basic. Shop for basics from a higher quality brand and better quality materials.
- Care for your clothing gently and properly. Avoid the dryer! Get yourself a drying rack!
- Buy less, choose better.
As a clothing lover myself I have had a lot of struggle with avoiding fast fashion and transitioning my shopping habits, but after learning about the awful details that make up fast fashion and then reflecting on how those very unintentional clothes were making me feel I started to realize I didn't feel good in my own clothes. I shopped so much because I felt I was trying to fill a void. Not an emotional void (except on an occasional bad day shopping adventure) but a void of needing something new and since the quality is so bad I never found what I actually wanted, but bought it to make that void go away for a moment. Which resulted in me accumulating a TON of ill fitting, itchy, low quality items that then gave me stress of having too much stuff, guilt for not wearing brand new items and the infamous feeling of
"I have nothing to wear". Obviously, it's not that I didn't have anything to wear, but what I did have didn't feel good on my skin or fit my body properly and it made me self conscious. I am still on my journey to a quality wardrobe that makes me feel amazing. I have been slowly making positive changes, and like anyone else I do not get it right every time and sometimes mistakenly take two steps backwards. It isn't about being perfect, but more about being mindful and making the effort to make better choices.
Fashion and clothing is very personal to each of us and how it makes us feel is extremely important. So, telling you to just go out and only shop ethically sourced, eco-friendly clothing isn't realistic to what you will actually do on a daily basis. When it comes down to it, people are going to shop things they are attracted to regardless of where is comes from (with the exception of the hard-core ethical shoppers out there).
That is why I am on a mission to help women with a mindset shift about style and consuming. By designing uncomplicated, timeless and seasonless clothing women can live their lives in (RUBA RUBA), sharing more about these topics here and on social media and working one on one with women and men everyday during my Mindful Wardrobe Development Services I am working to create that shift together.
I believe that that the fashion industry will change when we change our actions, shopping habits and mindsets. I want women (and men) to feel amazing in their clothes and not feel stress or overwhelm from them. Thinking about all of the terrible things that come from fast fashion can quickly bring on feelings of guilt or like it is too big of an issue and out of our control, but it is in our control! We give power to this terrible cycle every time we purchase an item that was intentionally designed to fall apart on us.
Change your mindset towards clothing and we can create a better future and in result better world, better style and better you!
Thank you for reading!
Share your mindful style efforts on Instagram and tag @rubarubadesigns and hash tagging #mindyourstyle
XOXO Georgia Caroline // RUBA RUBA