What is Fast Fashion?

What is fast fashion

Fast fashion is the term which is used to describe cheap clothing and accessories which are trendy for a certain amount of time and mostly run out of fashion once new trends and designs pop into the market. The brands catering to fast fashion releases multiple new products within weeks replicating design from high fashion all to being updated with the next trend in the fashion industry.

Since the past decade, we all being extremely aware of the various controversies related to fast fashion because of its undenied impact on the environment and the physical labour that goes on behind the making. We all can agree to the fact that it was a mistake on our side to take advantage of the system and promote consumerism to the point that it brought the downfall of the fast fashion. And to prevent it from happening in the future, we have to know about what brought to the fashion industry moving towards fast fashion.

Since the beginning of modern civilization, clothing has always been the key to distinguish oneself from others but due to lower clothing production, only a certain privileged people could afford such luxury. But the invention of the sewing machine along with a surplus demand of readymade clothes for the world wars created a platform for mass production from which the present apparel industry started growing. These readymade garments were much cheaper than bespoke ones and with the market growth became much more accessible. The 1960s and 1970s were also a time when the fashion became a form of self-expression and this lead to the start of fashion trends among the young generations who started following them. This opportunity was taken by the brands such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, Primark etc. in the late 1990s and early 2000s to fill the market with clothes replicating the looks and design elements from runway shows, top fashion houses and converting them to trends and selling them at a fraction of cost.

Related: Apparel Mass Production - An Overview

What fast fashion to consumers was?

This industry grew because it was for the response to a huge market of people who have always been demanding wearing clothes of high fashion and a cheaper alternative became a cherry on the top. This combination made for the perfect buying condition for the consumer and they started pouring into the stores to be updated with the latest trends. This turned out to be a rat race for the dedicated consumer to own those products since they knew that once they miss out on the opportunity on owning them they won’t be able to buy them again.

What fast fashion to brands was?

For fashion brands, this opportunity made for the perfect way to create demand in the market and maximising their profit by selling more and more of such cheap garments. Instead of replenishing their stock that sells out, they began to fill them with items of different styles making the older clothes outdated and unfashionable forcing consumers to constantly buy new clothes to keep them updated with the trend. This was achieved through extensive advertisement and endorsement to stay relevant and update the consumer of the changing trends.

Impacts of fast fashion

This was made possible by the brands by creating a successful supply chain that provided them with cheap fabrics and manufacturing the products. These were made from factories/sweatshops by employing manual workers at very low wedges to keep down the costs. These unregulated factories were mostly based in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, India where workers were kept for very low wages and under poor conditions with working hours of 14-16hrs a day for 7 days a week.

Because these clothes were cheap consumers easily thought them disposable and thus became more prone to being throwing away or thrown at the corner of the closet only to be thrown away once the trend passes on. This led to clothes and accessories being thrown away at an unprecedented rate to the landfills or shipped away to countries like Africa, India, Bangladesh. It was found that an average American household produced 70 pounds (32Kg) of textile waste every year. In comparison, the European Union generated a total of 5.8 million tons of textiles each year. All these added to textile comprising roughly 5% of all the landfill spaces.

The fast fashion has also been famous for criticism based on copying design items from independent artists. Since this industry strived on continuous changing of trends it was most often that the design elements, ideas were taken and used without proper consent from the artists. Several examples of these can be found on the internet.

Related post: Avoiding Fast Fashion: How to Get a More Sustainable Wardrobe


With such criticism, it can since then be safe to say that the world has moved away from fast fashion. This throw-away attitude from the consumer has also shifted towards a more sustainable approach prioritizing the need of the future. Then the question arises have we been able to make this transition completely. For most of us, we still look for cheaper alternatives in the market. Thus it is only a matter of time when some brand revives this strategy again and brings cheap trendy products into the market and start the cycle once again.

Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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