By Nanki Sehkon
The American economy is based on the ideology buying cheap and conveniently. The quote, “if it’s free, it’s for me,” runs deep in our society. Fast fashion is the concept of manufacturing clothing for cheap in order to keep up with the latest trends on the runways. Its entire concept revolves around producing new designs for less so the average person is manipulated to spend more money.
The marketing strategy behind fast fashion has been gaining momentum since the invention of the sewing machine in the 1846. This brought in “localized” outsourcing of a team of workers spending time to construct various items of clothing. This was especially more common for dressmaking businesses, yet a majority of clothing production was still done at home. Once World War II placed fabric restrictions and functional styles, clothing became more standardized and thus transformed itself into the mass production of clothing. The 1960s was really the final push of popularity for fast fashion where young people embraced cheaply made trendy clothing. Fashion brands, in order to keep up with the demands of affordable clothing, came up with ways to lower their production costs and thus earn more of a profit. The worldwide start-up of textile mills and labor outsourcing techniques used more than five decades ago, are still in play today and hold major problems.
There are many popular brands taking part in fast fashion, including some of the public’s favorites. Zara, H&M, Forever 21, ASOS, Boohoo, and almost every other major clothing store in your local mall has diverged into the world. And in doing so, the public slowly began to forget why it is so atrocious. Fast Fashion encourages child labor in third-world countries, influences terrible working-conditions, and is a dramatic force of environmental destruction. One pair of blue jeans takes 2,000 gallons of water for the cotton making it up to be grown. While this can’t be avoided, the practice of fast fashion increases the production of pairs of jeans and thus, turns more and more unsustainable. With fast-fashion being so dominant, there really is no time for a designer to be creative and let go. They have to keep up with the latest fads and thus continued cheap products hit the market.
Cheap labor is the backbone of fast fashion. And it is all because of slave labor, as extreme as it sounds. In India, a pair of jeans costs 92 cents to make including safety measures and wages. The concepts of sweatshops is literally common and booming in the fashion industry- that’s no secret. In addition, there is an imbalance of male to female workers with absolutely no concept of workers right. Maternity and paid sick leave is unheard of. Unfortunately, this isn’t the worst of it. A Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring about 2,500 more. Major corporations see labor workers as disposable and thus don’t treat them with the respect human beings deserve. This is a major problem taking over our world that many people don’t seem to acknowledge.
In the 20th century, clothing was more an investment and took a larger chunk of one’s’ salary leading to a less likelihood of being able to buy it. But now, the cost of clothing has exponentially decreasing while Americans buy more than ever before. And because of that, people need to do their part in preventing it from flourishing. Thrifting and DIY should become your best friend. That way, one can find products both unique to them while doing their part in aiding the planet. Another great option is buying sustainable products. Although it is a bit pricier, it guarantees products given to the user that’s made with meaning, a love for art, and transparent about what they do. Popular brands indulging in sustainability include Levi’s, Patagonia, and Nudie Jeans.
It will be hard to curb mainstream popular brands part of fast fashion, especially if it’s something you’ve continually indulged. But by slowly but surely distancing yourself from these practices, you’ll be igniting a change for a better world and inspire others in following. One has more power than what many may believe.