What is "Fast Fashion"?

Author: Throckmorton
Published: 11/09/2020

Last week, after writing about end-lots (read it here https://www.throckmortonjones.com/pub/article/3), I received a bit of feedback that some did not understand what I meant when referring to "Fast Fashion".  So,  let's talk about "fast fashion".

What is "fast fashion"?

Fast fashion is:  trendy clothing made at breakneck speed with the cheapest available material and labor, in order to meet consumer demand. The idea is to get the newest styles to market as fast as possible, so shoppers can snap them up at the height of their popularity. Unfortunately, discarded after a few wears.

How to spot a fast fashion brand?

                 poor seam quality   poor seam quality   pilling fabric

The impact of fast fashion:

The pressure to reduce costs and speed up production time means that environmental corners are more likely to be cut. The impact includes its use of cheap, toxic textile dyes, fabric, and finishes—making the fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally after agriculture. 

Problem materials/fabrics:

 The speed at which fast fashion brands produce garments also means we easily dispose of more and more clothes, creating an enormous amount of textile waste. 

Human cost:

Animals are impacted by fast fashion, the toxic dyes released in waterways, and the microfibers that are often ingested by ocean life. When animal products such as leather and fur are used, they can put animal welfare at risk. 

 

What can we do?

Choose well!  Buy less and make it last!

Buying Less is the first, so creating a capsule wardrobe https://goodonyou.eco/capsule-wardrobes-create-your-own/  is something well worth considering on your journey.

Choose Well is the second step and choosing quality that will last both in style and quality of materials.   Style over trend, eco-friendly fabric.

Make it Last and wear our clothes until they are worn out! Darn old socks. Take your shoes to the cobblers. Put patches on your elbows and knees when they thin out.

The life cycle of a piece of clothing could be between 100-200 wears, but only a fraction of garments ever stay in our wardrobes that long.  Here are some tips to help extend the life of your quality garments:

Get creative yourself or hire someone to mend/ make your favorite pieces last.  

Visual mending ideas:

jeans visual mending  shirt visual mending   vm  vm4

More information and links :

How did we get here?

The Industrial Revolution introduced new technology—like the sewing machine.
1846: Elias Howe patents the first practical sewing machine.  Clothes became easier, quicker, and cheaper to make. Dressmaking shops emerged to cater to the middle classes. 
A lot of these dressmaking shops used teams of garment workers or home workers. It was around this time that sweatshops emerged, along with some familiar safety issues. The first major garment factory disaster was when fire broke out in New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. It claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, many of whom were young, female immigrants.  By the 1960s and 70s, young people were creating new trends and clothing became a personal expression, but there was still a distinction between high fashion and high street. In the late 1990s and 2000s, low-cost fashion reached its zenith. Online shopping took off, and fast-fashion retailers like H&M, Zara, and Topshop took over the high street. These brands took the looks and design elements from the top fashion houses and reproduced them quickly and cheaply. With everyone now able to shop for on-trend clothes whenever they wanted, it’s easy to understand how the phenomenon caught on.

Fast fashion amplifies the ideas 1. that wearing things more than once is a fashion faux pas and 2. if you want to stay relevant, sport the latest looks as they happen.  These ideas form key parts of the toxic "fast fashion" system, including over-production and over-consumption that has made fashion one of the largest polluters in the world.  

Fast fashion is produced in overseas factories with the use of workers on low wages without adequate rights or safety and has complex supply chains with poor visibility beyond the first tier and of subcontracting. They produce their clothes in big factories where workers are paid unfair wages.

(There are ethical alternatives worth your support.)

A resource page about fast fashion:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_fashion

A few brands as options from fast fashion: Cute Eco-Friendly Activewear Brands You Can Actually Afford

Where to buy your intimates instead? 25+ Affordable Eco Underwear Brands Making You Feel Sexy And Comfy

Summary Table and Graph

The data below are from 1960 to 2017, relating to the total number of tons of textiles generated, recycled, composted, combusted with energy recovery, and landfilled.

1960-2017 Data on Textiles in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons)

Management Pathway

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2005

2010

2015

2016

2017

Generation

1,760

2,040

2,530

5,810

9,480

11,510

13,220

16,060

16,880

16,890

Recycled

50

60

160

660

1,320

1,830

2,050

2,460

2,510

2,570

Composted

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Combustion with Energy Recovery

-

10

50

880

1,880

2,110

2,270

3,060

3,240

3,170

Landfilled

1,710

1,970

2,320

4,270

6,280

7,570

8,900

10,540

11,130

11,150

Sources: American Apparel and Footwear Association, International Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel, and the Council for Textile Recycling

DIRTY THIRTY! A list of the worst offenders: 30+ brands to AVOID   https://theprettyplaneteer.com/fast-fashion-brands-to-avoid/

 

 

 

 

 

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