A Brief History of The Fashion Industry
From the beginning of the 20th century to the mid-20th century the fashion industry operated in four seasons which included winter, fall and spring. Summer was the fourth. Designers would plan months ahead to plan every season and anticipate what styles their the customers would prefer. This process, though more methodical than today’s fashion removed the agency of the wearers. Before fashion was easily accessible to the masses it was a requirement for the elite and there were regulations to be adhered to.
It wasn’t until the 1960s when an appropriately timed advertising campaign for paper clothing demonstrated that the public was ready for the fashion craze. The result was the fashion industry accelerating its pace and decreasing costs.
It wasn’t until decades laterthat the speed of fashion reached a point at which there was no return. According to Sunday Style Times, “It particularly came to the fore during the vogue for ‘boho chic’ in the mid-2000s.”
Today, fashion companies create around fifty “micro-seasons” a year–or one new “collection” a week. According to the author Elizabeth Cline, this started with the time Zara changed to biweekly deliveries of new items in the beginning of the aughts. In the years since, it’s become commonplace for retailers to keep an abundance of inventory throughout the day which means that brands don’t have to be worried about being short of clothing. Through replicating fashion and streetwear trends that are trending in real-time, businesses can come up with new and fashionable styles every week, but not every day. The companies then have huge amount of clothing to guarantee that their customers will never run out of their selection.
Although brands such as H&M, Topshop, and Zara are the main victims of the complaints over production, the most prestigious brands track growth through increasing production. As per Fast Company, “apparel companies make 53 million tons of clothes into the world annually,” and the number has certainly been increasing since the original publication in the year the year of 2019. “If the industry keeps up its exponential pace of growth, it is expected to reach 160 million tons by 2050.”
What is fast-fashion?
Fast fashion can be described as cheap, fashionable clothes that borrows concepts from the catwalk or pop fashion and transforms into clothing that are sold in stores on the high street at a rapid pace in order to meet the demand of consumers. The aim is to have the latest trends on the market as quickly as is possible, so customers can grab them when they’re at their peak of popularity, only to they will throw them away after a few times. This is in line with the notion that repeating outfits is considered a fashion faux pas and that in order to be current, you must wear the most current styles in the moment they become available. It’s a major component of the unhealthy system of consumption and overproduction that has resulted in fashion becoming one of the biggest polluters. Before we start making it better, let’s look at an examination of the history.
What is the problem with fast fashion?
Polluting our planet
Fast fashion’s environmental impact is massive. The pressure to cut expenses and accelerate production times ensures that environmental corners are much more likely to be cut. Fast fashion’s negative effects include the use of low-cost and toxic dyes used in textiles, making the fashion industry most polluting source of clean water around the world just like agriculture. This is the reason why Greenpeace has been pushing brands to eliminate toxic chemical substances from the supply chain with its cleansing fashion campaigns throughout the decades.
Cheaper textiles also boost fashion’s influence. Polyester is among the most sought-after fabrics. It’s derived of fossil sources, is a major contributor to global warming, and may shed microfibres, which contribute to the rising levels of plastics in our oceans when cleaned. However, it is true that even “natural” fabrics can be an issue when you consider the size that fashion-driven demands. Conventional cotton is a huge requirement of pesticides and water in countries that are developing. This creates drought risk and causes extreme stress on the water bodies and a fierce the competition for resources between businesses and local communities.
The constant pace and demand means increased stress on other areas of the environment like clearing of land, biodiversity in addition to soil quality. The leather processing process also affects the environment. 300kg of chemicals added to each leather tanned by 900kg of animal skins.
The speed at which clothes are manufactured is also a reason why more and garments are being discarded by the consumer, which results in huge textile waste. According to some estimates In Australia alone more than 500 million pounds of unwanted clothes end in the landfill each year.
In addition to the environmental costs of rapid fashion, there’s also a human price.
Fast fashion can be detrimental to garment workers working in unsafe environments, earning poor wages and with no basic human rights. Further along to the production chain farmers could be exposed to harmful chemicals and brutal methods which can have catastrophic effects on their mental and physical well-being, as that was highlighted in “The Truth Cost,” a documentary “The True Cost”.
Animals also suffer from rapid fashion. In nature, the microfibres and dyes that are toxic in the waterways are consumed by marine and land animals alike, through the food chain, causing a devastating results. If animals’ products like fur, leather, or wool are utilized to fashion clothes, animals’ protection is at risk. In the case of wool, for instance, many scandals have revealed that genuine fur, which includes the fur of dogs and cats, is frequently sold as faux fur to unsuspecting customers. In reality, there’s so much genuine fur produced in terrible circumstances in the fur industry that it has made more affordable to manufacture and purchase than fake fur.
In the end, fashion trends can affect consumers by encouraging an “throw-away” culture because of the inherent obsolescence of the merchandise as well as the speed at the pace at which new trends appear. Fast fashion encourages us to believe that we must shop constantly to keep up with fashions, creating a perpetual desire and eventually frustration. The fashion has also been criticized for intellectual property reasons and some designers claiming that retailers illegally produced their designs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fast Fashion
The Advantages of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is good for businesses. The continuous launch of new products can encourage customers to shop more frequently and make more purchases. The retailer doesn’t replenish its stock, rather, it replaces items that are sold out with new ones. So, customers are able to buy an item they like the moment they see it, no regardless of price, because it’s unlikely to be in stock for the duration of time. Because the clothing is inexpensive (and affordable to make) it’s simple to encourage people to return to shops or on the internet to purchase new clothes.
Fast fashion can also be the reason for huge profits particularly if a brand can identify trends before others. The speed with which fast fashion is able to ensure that retailers do not face markdowns which can reduce margins. If there is a loss the fast fashion businesses can quickly recover through the introduction of a new style, line of clothing, or product.
In terms of benefits for the consumer, fashion that is fast has helped people get the clothes they desire when they need them. It also has made clothes less expensive, not just ordinary clothes, but ingenuity fashions, creative, and stylish clothes. It’s no longer the case that having the trendiest style, having a reputation of being “well-dressed,” or having large clothes the domain of the wealthy and famous.
To that end, those who advocate believe that the fast fashion industry has had a broad-based influence on fashion and on society. Even people with modest incomes can always buy new and fashionable clothes, enjoy extravagant or unpractical products and dress in a different way every single day.
The Disadvantages of Fast Fashion
Although it has many benefits for consumers but, the fast fashion industry has been criticized for its tendency to encourage an “throw-away” attitude. It’s the reason it’s also referred to as disposable fashion. A lot of fashion-forward women in their early 20s and teens–the demographic that the industry targets — admit they wear their items at most once and sometimes twice. 9
It is possible to debate whether it is beneficial to the consumer. If a few purchases of fashion-forward clothes even if they’re cheap could end up costing consumers more than some more expensive ones that last for longer.
Absolutely, it cost the earth more. Some critics argue that fast fashion causes pollution, waste and planned obsolescence due to the low quality of products and methods of manufacturing that it employs. Poorly made clothes aren’t durable, and they’re not recyclable because they’re largely (over 60 percent) comprised of synthetic materials. Therefore, when they’re recycled the landfills will mold for many years. 10
The majority of fast fashion businesses outsource their production of products, usually to factories located in countries that are developing. However, some have not been very stringent in monitoring their sub-contractors and also transparent about their supply chains. This has led to criticisms claiming that fast fashion is based upon poor working conditions, low wages, and other shady and unfair practices. Because clothing is manufactured from overseas Fast fashion is thought to be contributing to the decline of the U.S. clothing industry, in which labor laws or workplace laws are more stringent and wages are higher.
Fast fashion is also criticized for intellectual property rights, with some designers claiming that their designs were copied illegally and then mass-produced by fast fashion corporations.
- Profitable for retailers and manufacturers
- Offers fast, efficient delivery
- Fashionable clothes are cost-effective
- Fashion and style are democratized
- Uses cheap materials, poor workmanship
- It encourages “throwaway” consumer mentality
- Has negative environmental impact
- Associated with abusive, exploitative labour practices
How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet
There’s a saying that’s been around for ages that is usually associated with Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashion fades, style is eternal.”
Actually, that could no longer be the case in regards to fast fashion. Fast fashion brands may not create their clothes that will last (and they do not) but, as artifacts of a consumptive time, they could be an integral element of fossil records.
Over 60 per cent of all fabric fibers are synthetic made from fossil fuels. So even if our clothing gets thrown into a garbage bin (about 85 percent all textile garbage is disposed of in the United States goes to landfills or is disposed of) It won’t degrade.
The synthetic microfibers are found in the ocean freshwater and elsewhere in the deepest regions of the oceans as well as the glacier’s highest summits. Future archaeologists could look into the ruins of landfills that have been absorbed by nature and uncover the remains of Zara.
It’s Zara and other brands similar to its that helped to plant flags at the extremest reaches of the globe. The book “Fashionopolis,” Dana Thomas is a seasoned writer of style, convincingly links our fashion-forward wardrobes with global trends in climate and economics and crises. She traces the present state in the biosphere of fashion manufacturing methods as well as labor practices and environmental impact — within the past of the clothing industry.
The story is split into three sections that can be sorted. The first is about the world-wide fast fashion and regular fashion industries and the process that led them to be so massive as well as awe-inspiring, and seeming to be inaccessible. The book also provides a fascinating explanation of the way in which NAFTA helped to create the global growth of the fast fashion. The second chapter outlines different, perhaps even more radical, ways of producing clothing that Thomas describes as “slow fashion”: locally grown and cultivated materials, which are often produced or sourced in a small amount such as the entrepreneur and farmer Sarah Bellos’s indigo grown in America. Finally, she has conversations with those trying to transform the entire system, starting from the material we use to the way clothes are made and how we shop.