Particularly in light of global warming and the escalating repercussions of climate catastrophe, people all over the world are becoming more aware of their carbon footprints and environmental impacts. The fashion business, and fast fashion firms, in particular, have drawn attention for their role in contributing to global waste and climate change. But what is fast fashion exactly? Let’s look at what fast fashion is, how it affects society and the environment, who creates the garments and where they originate from, and whether there are any potential answers.
I. The fast fashion definition
The meaning of fast fashion refers to inexpensive, low-quality apparel that is made fast and rotates in and out of the market often to keep up with current fashion trends. When Spanish clothing company Zara first came to New York in the early 1990s, the New York Times initially used the fast fashion definition to characterize the brand’s goal of having clothing available for purchase in shops in only 15 days. Among the largest and most well-known fast fashion companies in the world are UNIQLO, Forever 21, and H&M.
The fast fashion business model entails quick design, production, distribution, and marketing, which enables brands and retailers to source larger quantities of a wider range of products while enabling customers to acquire more style and product distinction at a lower cost. However, since people are intrinsically drawn to inexpensive commodities, many of which are slaves to the newest fads, a system that depends on such quick and inexpensive manufacturing merely promotes excessive consumption. For individual customers, it is also simpler and more cost-effective to purchase inexpensive products with short lifespans as opposed to splurging on expensive, long-lasting items that will quickly go out of style.
II. The fast fashion pros and cons
Fast fashion has been around far longer than most people realize, but it has now developed into a prosperous sector that helps both companies and customers. On the other hand, fast fashion’s success has thrust it into the public eye, which has led many individuals to have an immoral image of the sector. The fast fashion pros and cons section below will show you the benefits and drawbacks of this.
Affordability is a really positive trait of fast fashion. Everyone needs to have access to the outfits that best suit their personality. Nobody should be denied access to fashion since it is a part of everyday life, regardless of their financial situation. Just as students should receive essay assistance in school, so too should society assist regular people in expressing themselves as everyone else does.
Another excellent development is accessibility. These days, clothing can be found practically anywhere. Now, you may get new apparel at the corner of the street, when in the past you had to go to the town to place an order for a piece of material and wait days or weeks for it to arrive.
These days, a variety of clothes makes us so happy. You have a lot of options if you wish to use research clothing trends. There are thousands of shops for any style you can think of, including vintage, gothic, pop, elegant, and more.
Low production costs are the major factor in the fast fashion industry’s success. Clothing sales in recent years virtually doubled from one trillion to 1.8 trillion dollars, demonstrating the instant need for this form of company, allowing corporations to create quick and significant profits. Fast fashion firms are able to mass-produce thousands of items in a short length of time for a low market value, which is very alluring to customers, thanks to low-cost production.
Customer satisfaction eventually rises as a result of fast fashion retailers’ ability to produce, market, and deliver goods to customers immediately. Additionally, they follow current fashions and may quickly copy runway favorites. The concept of having a new outfit for every occasion has also been sparked by fast fashion, which is doable for customers who buy at fashion labels since they may spend less and get their purchases as soon as the following day.
Negative effects on the environment
Unfortunately, the harm fast fashion causes to the environment is one of its biggest drawbacks (which is why people are embracing slow fashion). The second worst polluter overall is the garment sector. Fast fashion raises the bar since businesses annually squander billions of dollars worth of resources and 2,700 gallons of water are required to produce just one cotton t-shirt. Another issue is synthetic non-renewable polymers. The manufacture of this kind of material leads to the discharge of gases that are 300 times more hazardous than carbon dioxide, yet they are utilized to extend the lifespan of garments.
Fast fashion items are produced quickly, which directly affects the number of greenhouse gases created, which are mostly brought on by excessive manufacturing and frequent delivery by air and land transportation. Thousands, if not millions, of things, are thrown out since many fashion manufacturers do not employ recyclable materials, adding to the already substantial quantity of trash. This has prompted politicians and celebrities to weigh in on the discussion. Prince Charles, for example, recently criticized fast fashion and suggested that UK citizens make more environmentally friendly fashion choices.
The exploitation of employees and illegal immigration
The unequal treatment of immigrants who work in unstable environments is one of the most significant problems in the fast fashion sector. Given that the majority of migrants employed by fast fashion businesses do not possess a Work Visa, this includes the appalling circumstances in which they are required to perform their menial tasks. Since there is no set legal minimum wage in the UK, many employees make less than £3.50 per hour. As more eminent fashion brands are exposed and charged with violating workers’ rights, this behavior has been referred to as modern slavery.
They are not granted a contract since the occupations are unlawful. As a result, they lack worker rights like holiday pay and redundancy that a conventional employee would have. Due to the No Recourse to Public Funds condition that was put in place by the government, persons with temporary status do not have access to public funds, which has further restricted their rights during the coronavirus epidemic.
III. Why is fast fashion bad?
The anticipated annual global production of textile waste is 92 million tonnes, and by 2030, that figure is projected to increase to 134 million tonnes. However, the fast fashion environmental impact goes beyond textile waste. Huge quantities of energy are needed to produce enough clothes to satisfy the unreasonably high demand, particularly for the creation of synthetic textiles. According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is responsible for close to 10% of world carbon emissions, which is more than the aviation and shipping industries put together, and close to 20% of global wastewater, or around 93 billion cubic meters from textile dyeing.
Despite this, fast fashion stores and firms lack the motivation or inclination to modify their present business model given how successful it has been so far. In order to lower prices and boost usage, manufacturers further reduce production costs by employing synthetic and chemically processed materials rather than organic ones.
With the exponential rise in global apparel consumption, fast fashion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sales of clothes have increased from 100 billion to 200 billion pieces annually since 2000. The average number of times an item was worn reduced by 36% overall during the same time.
The question “Why is fast fashion bad?” has an answer in all the above facts. Similar to the case of switching to a plant-based diet to aid in reducing deforestation and carbon emissions, this results in consumers actively choosing to avoid fast fashion brands and supporting more sustainable and socially responsible labels in order to lessen the devastating environmental effects of the industry.
IV. The fast fashion environmental impact
The enormous environmental cost of the ongoing creation of new apparel is significant. The industry is the source of 20% of the industrial water pollution caused by the treatment and dyeing of textiles, using 93 billion cubic meters of water yearly, enough to meet the needs of five million people.
There are other problems with the materials and processes used as well. For instance, 16% of insecticides and 6% of pesticides used globally are used in the production of cotton. Additionally, the sector has a significant carbon footprint, which accounts for up to 10% of all global carbon emissions and is predicted to rise by 50% by 2030. The aforementioned issues impact the apparel industry more generally, however one difficulty is unique to fast fashion: plastic.
Fast fashion has an influence on customers’ and garment workers’ health in addition to the environment. Clothing on the market today has been discovered to contain dangerous substances including benzothiazole, which has been related to a number of cancer kinds and respiratory ailments. Wearing these shoddy-made garments might be harmful to our health because our skin is the greatest organ in the human body.
In the cities, towns, and homes where fast fashion is produced, this risk simply grows. For instance, traditional textile dyeing frequently emits “heavy metals and other toxicants that might significantly affect the health of animals as well as adjacent inhabitants,” according to the Environmental Health Journal. Exposure to toxic chemicals always puts the health of textile workers in danger. Long hours, unequal pay, a lack of resources, and even physical assault are not even considered.
V. Biggest fast fashion brands in the USA
Zara, H&M Group, UNIQLO, GAP, Forever 21, Topshop, Esprit, Primark, Fashion Nova, and New Look are significant brands in the USA’s fast-fashion industry. While many businesses combine manufacturing and retailing, they frequently contract out the actual clothes manufacturing.
Additionally, established mass-market department stores in the United States like Macy’s, J. C. Penney, and Kohl’s have also adopted certain fast-fashion strategies. Boohoo is one name in the list of fast fashion brands that also own Burton, Coast, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Karen Millen, MissPap, Nasty Gal, Oasis, Pretty Little Thing, Wallis, and Warehouse. Here is a deeper look at a few of the top fast fashion brands in the USA.
The flagship brand of textile behemoth Inditex, the Spanish retail chain Zara, is almost associated with fast fashion and is a model for reducing the time between design, manufacturing, and delivery. The apparel retailer Zara sells men’s, women’s, and children’s clothes, and its designers may create a drawing of a garment and have it ready to be produced in as little as four weeks. In as little as two weeks, it may change already-existing products.
The company’s control of a relatively small supply chain is the key to this swift turnaround. More than half of its plants, which are spread across nations including Portugal, Turkey, and Morocco, are near its corporate headquarters in A Corua, Spain.
Another crucial Zara strategy – overstocking the shelves with merchandise to provide customers with an unrivaled range of options – is made possible by its quick turnaround time. In contrast to the industry average of 2,000 to 4,000 pieces, it generates more than 11,000 pieces yearly. The total net sales of Zara in 2021, including Zara Home, were €19.6 billion. It has 1,947 locations throughout the world as of the middle of 2022, in addition to a successful internet business.
One of the first fast-fashion businesses, H&M Group, located in Sweden and abbreviated from Hennes & Mauritz, was established in 1947. By 2022, the H&M Group will have almost 4,000 stores operating in 74 countries under its many brands, which include, in addition to H&M, the somewhat more premium COS and the youth-oriented Monki.
The H&M Group operates like a department store, offering items like cosmetics and home decor in addition to apparel for men, women, and children. It is more of a shop because it relies on 600 different independent suppliers to provide its clothing rather than owning any factories. However, 16 H&M production offices are in charge of managing these suppliers, and they use cutting-edge IT systems to manage inventories and communicate with corporate HQ. All around Europe, Asia, and Africa are where the industries are located.
Through its much-heralded designer partnerships with high-end brands like Alexander Wang and Giambattista Valli, H&M has also aimed to produce unique designs rather than merely knockoffs. For instance, it debuted a Simone Rocha line at the beginning of 2021. H&M’s net sales for the year 2021 were SEK 199 billion, or around $18.9 billion.
1. Who Creates Clothing for Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion clothing is primarily produced abroad in factories where employees are underpaid and required to work long hours in hazardous circumstances. These factories are what are referred to as sweatshops, therefore the working conditions are not what is seen to be humane. They might not be sanitary, the workers might not be paid enough, and the materials they deal with could be harmful down the road.
There are child workers in many of the nations where fast fashion clothing is produced, which implies that the work they undertake is hazardous and may have negative health effects. Additionally, the majority of women who work in the “pink-collar” industry – where these fast fashion garments are produced – are female. These women often earn less money, and the pay they receive is insufficient to support them.
2. Where Do They Originate?
The clothing might originate from wherever where there is a market for them because fast fashion businesses are now practically everywhere. However, the majority of them will come from Asia because there are many low-cost factories there with a sizable labor force.
Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and Vietnam are a few nations well-known for their fast fashion clothing industries. Fast fashion was first created primarily for so-called “developing nations,” where employees were paid very little to produce the items at a higher price. These nations are infamous for having poor worker rights, and the wages they receive are insufficient to support them.
3. What Are Some Fast Fashion Issues?
Fast fashion businesses frequently employ international factories using outsourced, frequently underpaid labor to keep costs down. The working environment and production procedures, which may pollute the water, air, and land, are generally not adequately regulated.
Fast fashion pushes customers to have a wasteful, “disposable mentality.” Due to the fact that fast fashion clothing is generally made of synthetic materials, it is difficult to recycle, which leads to the development of another environmental issue: the massive accumulation of clothing in landfills and rubbish dumps.
4. How Much Plastic Is Included In Fast Fashion Clothing?
Synthetic fibers manufactured from intensively processed petrochemicals, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, and elastane, have played a significant role in the development of fast fashion (fossil fuels). The low cost of production of these materials – polyester, for instance, costs half as much to create per kilo as cotton – allows businesses to keep pricing low, but at a huge environmental cost.
Of these synthetic fibers, polyester is the most commonly utilized and is currently present in more than half of all textiles manufactured. It is often made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, a form of plastic manufactured from natural gas and crude oil and used to manufacture goods like plastic bottles.
The textile industry uses 15% of all plastic; the only industries that use more are packaging and construction due to how pervasive plastic is in apparel. A recent analysis by the RSA discovered that the actual level of recycled material was pitifully low despite the fact that many manufacturers make a big deal about utilizing recycled plastics for their clothing. Only 4% of the materials used by four big online fast fashion firms were recycled.
While recycling plastics wherever feasible has certain advantages, it has little effect on the issue of microfibres, which are tiny pieces of fabric that are released when clothing is worn, cleaned, or discarded and end up in our bodies and the environment.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that each year, clothing contributes the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles worth of microfibres to the ocean. These threads have been discovered practically everywhere, including the placentas of developing newborns and the peak of Mount Everest. The potential impacts are yet unknown.
5. What Are Fast Fashion’s Economic Effects?
The supply and demand of the related trends are at the heart of rapid fashion. There were always thought to be two fashion seasons, but there are now 52 micro-seasons. This is a result of customer demand for the newest trends as they closely follow the major fashion global stages. Retailers are competing to see who can develop the next trend the quickest and for the least amount of money.
By 2030, the clothing market is predicted to be worth $3 trillion, up from $1.9 trillion in 2019. These figures demonstrate the enormous importance that society continues to place without any sign of abating consumption of fashion.
6. Is There A Fix For The Fast Fashion Issue?
There are many various things we can do to solve the rapid fashion issue, but ultimately, it is up to us as customers since we have all contributed in some manner. We need to be more thoughtful about the things we purchase and wear. Just to solve this issue for future generations, we need to consider our consumption patterns, what they say about our society, and how they affect the environment.
We have rapid fashion options that we can use. Starting to shop at thrift stores or secondhand stores is one of the nicest things you can do. You may buy clothing for a very reasonable price that will endure for a very long time, and you won’t be buying anything made by unprotected, low-paid laborers.
Buying only what you need rather than what’s trendy at the moment can also help lessen the amount of waste that is produced and dumped in landfills. And lastly, it’s up to us as buyers to demand specific details about the goods we buy, such as where they came from, what the working conditions were in the factory where they were created, and what type of influence they have on the environment.
The fast fashion sector has significantly impacted our society. In this sort of buying environment, it is simple to locate what you need, whether you’re seeking the newest fashions or want to purchase clothing at a reasonable price. But you should also be aware of “what is fast fashion truly?”. Fast fashion has had significant negative environmental effects in addition to its commercial accomplishments. However, unless there is a shift in the consumer’s thinking, fast fashion will continue to exist for many years to come.