We live in a world where everything is seemingly ‘instant’. Anything we need, from groceries and cosmetics to a taxi ride can be ordered at the press of a button. This is definitely also true of the world of fashion. Where once catwalk designs would take a few weeks to trickle down to the high street, you can now access the latest trends within days.
This is known as fast fashion. Fast fashion allows on- trend designs to move from the catwalks of London, Paris, New York and Milan to the high street in large volumes, and at an affordable price.
Who are some of the biggest fast fashion brands?
Chances are you’ll have heard of all these brands, and probably shopped at a few. H & M and Zara are two of the top high street names. While Forever 21, Misguided and Boohoo are among the top online players.
Who works in the industry?
As consumers, we see the bright lights of the stores and only interact with the retail staff. However, the industry employs millions of people. From production to shipping and delivery to sales, the overall industry is vast. In fact, clothes production is the third biggest manufacturing industry after the automotive and tech industries.
It’s not all good news for the world of employment though. Fast fashion is actually powered by offshore manufacturing, where labour is cheaper. Production facilities tend to be based in developing markets, such as Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. Unfortunately, in these countries labour laws are practically non-existent. As a result, we constantly hear reports of worker exploitation, especially women and children. In fact, reports suggest that up to 93% of brands don’t pay their workers a living wage.
The environmental impact of fast fashion
The negative impact of fast fashion doesn’t end at working conditions. It’s also slowly leading us to environmental disaster. According to the latest report by the Government’s Environmental Audit Committee, the production of textiles is more devastating in terms of climate change than shipping and aviation combined. Indeed, figures show that it produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This accounts for 10% of our carbon emissions. Part of the problem is that cheaper fabrics and materials are used in the production of clothing is part of the problem. For example, production of a polyester shirt creates double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt.
It’s not just about carbon footprint, however. Water consumption and pollution are also increasingly cause for concern. Annual water usage within the fashion industry is estimated at a staggering 79 billion cubic meters of water, making it the second largest consumer of the planet’s water supply. While textiles are the largest source of microplastics poisoning our oceans today.
The ethical debate
However much we all are about the environment, shopping ethically is expensive. Fast fashion means we can experiment with more ‘out there’ trends without breaking the bank. We’d all invest more in classic pieces, but that fluorescent top that will be firmly ‘out’ by next season? None of us are keen to spend much on such an item, but the fast fashion industry definitely allows us to experiment with our look in an affordable way. We no longer need to worry about discarding items after just a few wears.
But maybe it’s all about moderation. Where once we only shopped occasionally, it’s definitely become a hobby, and the ability to buy the latest styles with your loose change can become addictive. But by thinking about the amount we buy, and regularly taking stock of our wardrobes, we can work out how to repurpose existing garments.
As the decade moves forward, we think this sustainable approach will become more popular. It also feeds into a more eco-friendly approach, one which is far gentler on the environment and might reverse some of the damage already caused by our obsession with being fashion-forward. Repurposing is just one approach, but we’re also seeing clothes rental on the rise, indicating that the public is moving away from the excessive, over-consumptive ‘throw away’ culture that fast fashion has created.
Fast fashion and shapewear
The one area you shouldn’t be looking for a ‘fast fashion’ fix is shapewear. How you look on the outside is determined by your foundation garments, so it’s worth taking your time and investing in the best. That’s where we can help. Our specially curated selection can help you maximise the impact of those curves, smoothing you in all the right places. Check out our plus size shapewear collection today. By cinching a few inches you can actually extend the life of your wardrobe, saving you money and the environment all in one go.