Fast fashion has been rising in popularity over the last 20 years. It allowed brands and retailers such as Zara, H&M, Primark, Forever 21, GAP to grow into large global corporations.
Today's consumers see many advantages in fast fashion. That's why it's so successful despite its drawbacks. It's fun to shop for new trendy clothes weekly. Fast fashion remains popular because it's practical and convenient.
Fast fashion is now everywhere. People love fast fashion because it provides instant gratification. Fast fashion brands and designers offer new stylish pieces of clothing inspired by runway shows at an affordable price very quickly.
Fast fashion is the term used to describe a destructive business model in the clothing industry. It defines the design, production, and consumption of cheaply made clothing inspired by the latest trends.
There are many causes of the rise of fast fashion. Through the influence of social media and technological innovation in manufacturing, communication, and distribution, the fast fashion business model is growing exponentially.
The global textile and apparel industry is expanding at a 6.16% compound annual growth rate. It's valued at about USD 1.5 trillion in 2020.
Arguably, fast fashion is a good thing for many people around the world. Consumers demand new, affordable, and fashionable clothes available in high-street stores every week.
The fast fashion industry plays a huge role in the global economy. It employs 300 million people around the world. It offers jobs to farmers and workers in the poorest countries.
But fast fashion has a disastrous social and environmental impact. It's destroying the planet, the lives of people and animals living on it.
The fashion industry is responsible for more than 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. It accounts for 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. That number is expected to rise by 50% by 2030 at the current pace.
Read up my article on the fashion industry's catastrophic contribution to climate change to learn more about its negative impact on the environment.
Fast fashion also contributes to large amounts of textile waste going to landfills to decompose or be incinerated. Americans alone generated 16.9 million tons of textile waste in 2017. That amount doubled over the last 20 years.
The fashion industry creates 20% of the world's wastewater. Each year, it uses about 100 billion cubic meters of water.
Consumers used to buy high-quality and long-lasting clothing from renowned fashion brands.
Today's consumers want affordable and trendy clothing before anything else. Celebrities and social media personalities motivate them to buy more pieces of clothing, often with very low standards.
Cheaply made clothing is disposable. Styles and trends in the fast fashion industry change very quickly. Fast fashion brands and retailers encourage lower labor and raw material costs to answer consumers' demand.
They contribute to soil, air, and water pollution with microplastic fibers and hazardous chemicals. And they care more about making profits than the welfare of workers in their supply chains, where people are underpaid and abused.
Conscious consumers are aware of these issues and ask for alternatives to fast fashion. The ethical and sustainable fashion trend is growing. And plenty of great brands and retailers now offer responsible fashion at an affordable price.
Unfortunately, that doesn't make fast fashion socially fair or environmentally responsible. Many people keep buying fast fashion. Why is that? Here are the advantages of fast fashion for consumers.
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1. Shopping is a fun activity
Many people love to shop. Buying new clothes is a daily event for a lot of consumers. Because shopping is a fun activity for many consumers.
If you have too many unopened or tagged items lying around at home, you're probably addicted to shopping. People often buy clothing they don't necessarily need because it's pleasurable.
We often feel excitement and an adrenaline rush when discovering new items that we consider buying. Newness is invigorating and liberating. Shopping for new clothes that we have a chance to love is exciting.
It's the same as doing new things, meeting new people, seeing new places, and learning new ideas. It makes you feel good and joyful.
But some consumers drown in debt because of their shopping habits. Compulsive shopping is an addiction and very devastating for finances but also relationships and well-being.
2. Fast fashion is affordable
With the help of fast fashion, today's consumers can buy new trendy clothing at a very low price. They can afford the latest articles and styles regularly because they are cheaply made.
Fast fashion accelerates supply chains and drives costs down to meet constantly evolving consumers' demands.
Fast fashion brands and retailers employ factories in faraway countries where labor costs are very low. They offer jobs to local underdeveloped communities trying to make a living.
They launch new garments every week and often cut their losses very early, jumping on new trends before the competition.
They encourage new and returning customers to visit stores and buy new clothes as often as possible. New styles replace old designs with very little stock.
52 seasons have replaced the more traditional 2 to 4 seasons each year.
Fast fashion designers and brands design, manufacture, and push new garments to high-street stores quickly weekly. Consumers keep asking for low-cost apparel and cheaply-made clothing that they consider to disposable.
Fast fashion creates an impulsive shopping culture. It drives the demand for designer items and fashionable clothes available for less money.
3. There are many style choices
Fast fashion creates new styles every week. Design and production time have decreased dramatically.
Many fashion brands and retailers can sketch, produce, and distribute new garments inspired by the latest trends in a very short time.
The large variety of style choices is very appealing to buyers. Fashion designers and brands often partner with social media personalities and celebrities to advertise their new collections.
Fashion Nova is a fast fashion brand that has been growing exponentially with the support of many influencers. It produces 600 new styles every week. Its CEO, Richard Saghian, says he turned fast fashion into ultra-fast fashion.
4. Fast fashion is available everywhere
It's difficult to ignore fast fashion because it's everywhere. It's very practical for consumers to be able to shop for new trendy clothes either on the Internet or in high-street stores.
Zara is one of the most well-known fast-fashion retail giants. The company produces all types of clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Zara is the largest company in the Inditex group, the world's largest apparel retailer. There are a total of 2259 Zara stores in 96 countries in the whole world.
Before the industrial revolution, the world of fashion was primitive, small, slow, and local. Once the large majority of consumers got accustomed to clothes becoming cheaper, easier, and quicker to make, they started to love the idea of mass-produced clothing.
The fast Fashion industry is now a global phenomenon. People enjoy buying looks and outfits inspired by runway shows at a fraction of the price. But the planet and the beings living on it are paying the price for fast fashion.
These are the advantages of fast fashion for consumers. It's fun to buy new fashionable clothes at an affordable price weekly. But it's also very detrimental to the environment and the workers in the supply chain.
Today's consumers can choose between fast fashion and its alternatives. Instead of buying cheaply-made and mass-produced clothing, we can improve lives, protect the environment, and contribute to a sustainable fashion future.
We can start by making the most out of your wardrobe. It's important to responsibly get rid of the clothes we don't wear and replace them with timeless long-lasting pieces.
I quit fast fashion entirely when I found out how my clothes were being made. It's difficult to ignore the environmentally damaging and unethical manufacturing processes used in the fast fashion industry every day.
What are your thoughts on fast fashion? Do you believe its advantages are too big to overlook?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.