In a fast-moving society, many terms are thrown around left and right. Some of them are used so often that many forget its original meaning! Fast-fashioning is no rare term in the news, but what does it really mean?
The name suggests a part of its meaning: Fashioning obviously refers to design, where fast describes its process. In other words, fast-fashioning is a method used in the fashion industry to sell more for less. Trends rarely tend to last more than a few weeks – by the end of that time-lapse, the season or simple innovation will have rendered these trendy clothes outdated, obsolete even – resulting in consumers buying more and more. Most of these are also very cheap to produce. Lower-quality textile is easy to find in developing countries such as India, Bangladesh or El Salvador. Where the original cost – the pure value of the purchase per se – indicates clear profit, an iceberg of underground problems can be found underneath the transaction.
Environmental concerns ought to be raised without a doubt. To satisfy the needs of the customer – or better put together, of the industry – these textiles have to arrive in the USA or the European market. And that doesn’t go without price, but more importantly, without carbon emissions. Trucks, ships, airplanes: No matter the method, this could end up very nasty. Where the growing industry keeps producing more and more – economies of scale, after all – the planet suffers by each expansion. The numbers are alarming: Where 50 million tons of clothes are produced every year, projections predict 160 millions by 2050, more than thrice the current numbers. Multinationals like H&M, Zara or C&A do not plan after environmental care, but by margin of profit – the easiest way remaining to produce more and more. As of now, there are 52 “micro-seasons” in the fashion calendar, which amounts to more or less one micro-season per week. A mind-blowing number.
Where the customer believes he might be the winner – lower cost, after all – the customer is also forced to lose. It is impossible, or very difficult at least, to produce a growing quantity whilst also keeping the same quality. Details will be omitted, and the quality of clothes is also becoming secondary, whether it goes with Western morals or not. Some of the cheap textiles used aren’t only low-quality, but are even toxic for the human skin. They can compromise, in some cases, the customer’s health in the long-term. Not only do customers throw their clothes much earlier than they would have without the trendiness of fashion, but so do stores. When thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, or even millions in some cases, of clothes are deemed to be outdated, they are not sold, no matter the market. Instead, they will be thrown away, thrown as waste.
Now that I am aware, what could I do against it?
- Always look where your clothes are made from. If shopping online, you can directly check where the shirt comes from. There’s also the #WhoMadeMyClothes incentive last year, where customers posted on IG and Twitter brands where their clothes are from. Always make sure you know their provenance. Often, there are logos like Fairtrade and similar stuff that can help you orientate concerning their fairness of the clothes!
- Don’t buy the newest: There’s no need to buy the latest clothes. Make sure to buy what your need, and always consider that the cheaper the clothes are, the likelier workers will be paid less in horrible conditions
- Shop in charity shops! There are always charity shops around the corner. By shopping there, you ensure that your purchase will help someone survive in difficult conditions.
- Spread awareness! Online shopping can be tricky with so many brands offering lower prices, but there’s always a way to find more sustainable brands, even if it costs a bit more. And spread awareness – it’s the minimum that can be done.
Fast-fashioning is real. Unfortunately, there is little awareness. In a period where environmental concerns are a priority, fast-fashioning has to be addressed, and action should be taken against the likes of multinationals. When we can act in small steps like the ones just mentioned, global action has to be taken to have proper impact. It remains the government’s decision to either comply with the fashion’s industry wishes – commonly called money – or whether environmental concerns should have the priority.