Fifty years ago, a woman could wear only two dresses half her life – for weekends and weekdays. And a man on holidays made do with a wedding suit, and the rest of the time “conveyor” pants in fine ribbing and a shirt with an elementary ornament.
That all changed when the concept of “fast fashion” meaning accessibility and variety of closet, entered our everyday lives. However, the mass production of fashion led to other more serious problems for society.
Let’s discuss the important global topic of what fast fashion is, and what its dangers are.
What is it?
To introduce the concept of “fast fashion,” let us look back into the history of the development of the fashion industry.
In the past, only the wealthy could have beautiful and varied clothing. They hired a tailor who made costumes and dresses for special occasions: balls and receptions. Only the noble pillars of society could pay for such expenses.
The peasants, on the other hand, had no need for elaborate attire, for the simple reason that they spent most of their time doing farm work and other labor.
The first step to the development of “fast fashion” was the revolution, after which ordinary people had a normalized work schedule, weekends and vacations. In addition, corsets and long skirts became obsolete. That is, people had an urgent need for additional, appropriate clothing.
And the first to think of speeding up the process of creating practical and functional things for everyone was Coco Chanel. She suggested sewing the same piece of clothing in several sizes at once for sale to all comers. The pioneering collection was called “Pret-a-porter”-and it was only thanks to her that individual tailoring ceased to be relevant.
Nevertheless, a closet renewal 2 times a year was considered the most frequent, both for the fashion designers who created only the “autumn-winter” and “spring-summer” collections – and for consumers. But all this time experts tried to make fashionable clothes accessible to any customer, regardless of his monthly income or status.
Achieving this goal has led to the fact that now, along with the affordable price, there is a frequent appearance of different models of clothing. That is, not twice a year, but 52!
Yes, yes! It is into 52 micro-seasons that fashion creators now divide the year – that is, trends change every week.
Famous brands try to sew a batch of models for sale in the shortest possible time. This way, fashion clothing hits the shelves quickly – and customers, not wanting to keep up with the fashionable rhythm, buy new clothes over and over again.
Thus, fast fashion is a frequent update of fashion trends, range of clothing, its availability on sale and price.
This development of the Fast fashion industry is evidenced by the following statistics:
- Clothing production has doubled in the last two decades, and the frequency of wearing each item has decreased by a factor of five.
- The generation born at the end of the twentieth century is much more likely to throw away the components of their closet because the thing was bored or became unfashionable.
- As mentioned above, now instead of 2 fashion collections a year – the consumer is shown 52 proposals for the same period.
- U.S. scientists estimate that in 2015, every resident of the states threw away at least 30 kilograms of clothing.
- Each resident of the New York metropolis is responsible for 200 million kilograms of clothing per year, which is comparable to 72 Olympic swimming pools of water.
- But if you “weigh” the demand for fashion garments in England, you get as much as 1,720,000 tons per year.
- At the same time, sociological surveys have shown that consumers use only 20% of their closet in everyday life.
And we could turn a blind eye to man’s excessive desire to look fashionable and modern – if the impact of production and throwing things away were not a threat to the ecological condition of the planet.
Pros and cons
The advantages of fast fashion is confidently include the availability and variety of fashionable images.
- Now the consumer has the opportunity to express his personality or life position in clothes, to stand out among others;
- To get the thing you want, you do not need to spend your time and finances on individual tailoring – a huge savings;
- brands’ efforts to offer fashionable goods to customers in the shortest possible time allows fashionistas to keep up with the changes on the world’s catwalks;
- The relatively low price allows almost all classes of our society to join the modern rhythm.
But in contrast to each positive item on the list presented, there is a significant disadvantage, disproportionate to the desire to look fashionable.
The transience of fashion has created such a disease as shopaholism or onomania. It is a person’s need to constantly shop without the need for the items being purchased.
The term refers to medical concepts, describing shopaholism as a disease.
- A prime example of a famous shopaholic is Cameron Diaz, who herself has repeatedly admitted that many of the clothes she bought were never used;
- Similar habits have Paris Hilton, who does not wear the same thing twice, and Victoria Beckham, who spends at least $1.5 million a year to update her closet.
If you achieve personal happiness with image, status and money, you can sink into a depressive, anxious state. And an unhealthy nervous system leads to even more complex and severe ailments.
Now let’s talk about the more global disadvantages of fast fashion.
Manufacturing, specifically dyeing fabrics, is the second largest water pollutant on Earth.
For example, the inhabitants of Chinese valleys near textile industries note changes in the color of water in rivers. They are the first to know by the “coloring” of water bodies, which of the colors will become the most fashionable.
It is not hard to guess that the affordability is ensured by cheap, low-quality raw materials. Dyes for fabrics contain many harmful chemicals that are discharged into the world’s oceans as emissions. This fact negatively affects the health of people, animals and plants.
Water becomes unusable because of synthetic microfibers. They get into the ground from washing machines, as about 1,900 fibers are separated from clothes during one wash.
Dirty water drains into underground springs that flow into the ocean. The plankton there feed on all kinds of particles, including man-made ones. Subsequently, the fish, poisoned by chemical waste, become food not only for larger animal species, but also for humans.
The process of textile processing causes about 72 foreign compounds to enter water bodies. Thirty of them do not disappear even after decades.
The fact that it takes at least 70 barrels of oil a year to produce synthetic fabrics also speaks of its harm. And such material as polyester, for example, decomposes in nature for at least 200 years.
The availability of fashionable clothes provides cheap labor.
97% of all clothing is made in the so-called Third World countries. That is, where the average income per person does not exceed $100.
In addition to minimum wages, the people involved in production have to endure hard hours, working up to 15 hours without a break. There are at least 40 million people worldwide involved in the production and sewing of clothing.
Saving on creating proper working conditions for their employees leads to real disasters akin to terrorist-scale terrorist attacks.
Thus, 2013 was marked by a terrible catastrophe that took the lives of 1,135 people. The tragedy happened to the Rana Plaza complex, which was an eight-story building with five garment factories. The old building with numerous cracks simply collapsed due to negligence of the management. As a result, in addition to the deaths, more than 2,000 people were injured in varying degrees of severity.
Most of the workers of such enterprises work unofficially, so the country’s leadership cannot influence factory owners by legal means.
Significant profits from the export of manufactured clothing allow states to significantly replenish their coffers, making the authorities even less eager to influence unscrupulous manufacturers.
The history of mass-market and the Zara method
The concept of “Fast Fashion” could well be called a marketing move. After all, the fashion available to everyone found a high demand among customers. After that, the pace of creating certain models could be accelerated, thereby increasing the profitability of the fashion sphere.
The first to try the method of fast fashion on himself was the Topshop market, which sold a collection every six weeks.
The very popular H&M chain from Sweden joined this successful experiment. The brand was making new arrivals every three weeks, expanding by at least 20 new outlets annually in the United States alone.
Journalists who collected information for the film “The Real Price of Fashion”, announced the figure – 18 billion. That’s how much money the company “H & M” earns a year at the moment.
However, their performance was also surpassed by the Spanish brand Zara. Its method has become a record example for all followers.
The way the company works is that two hundred designers create 40,000 new models. The ones recognized as the best, which are no less than 12,000, are actually produced.
In this case, the following marketing works in fashion: clothes are produced in limited batches. As soon as a week after the new models arrive on the shelves, they are sold out – this spurs customers even more.
A great advertisement for potential buyers are the “stars”. Cameron Diaz, Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton, maintaining the image of bright and noble persons, must regularly update their image.
The information availability covers such facts about celebrities regularly, and advertising spurs the phrases: “To become like Jennifer Lopez, you need to change outfits 3 times a day” or “You want a T-shirt like Cristiano Ronaldo – come to us now or in six months to the others”!
In opposition to the accelerated renewal of collections, there are proponents of “sustainable fashion. It is they who emphasize the dangerous environmental impact of textile production and fight for the infringement of factory workers’ rights.
What is the danger?
It was mentioned above that fast fashion and accelerated production lead to water pollution with chemical compounds and synthetic fibers.
Clothes are often thrown away, with 60 billionm2 of the 400m2 produced annually going to recycled scraps and other waste. But the negative impact of “fashion” on the environment does not stop there.
Impact on the environment
Environmentalists see a great danger in the fact that the cultivation of cotton is accompanied by the treatment of plants with large quantities of water and pesticides. Such “watering” prevents poor yields and plant death.
However, other plants may become accustomed to this water content and become resistant to standard pesticides – that is, only toxic pesticides can save plants from diseases and pests. And after all, vegetation is food for livestock and humans.
According to statistics, at least 18% of all pesticides on the planet are used to treat cotton. All of this amount ends up in wastewater and the world’s oceans.
Making viscose and some other artificial fabrics requires cutting down 70 million trees. We dress ourselves by literally exposing the earth in the process.
Clothing production requires an enormous amount of water. For example, 1 pair of jeans needs 7,000 liters of water during manufacture, which is equivalent to 5-6 years of human water consumption.
There are regular news stories about teenagers and even children sewing trendy sweatshirts.
The loud and even scandalous news, for example, was the inscription found on the tag of clothes from Zara that the thing the buyer was going to buy was made by a person for whose labor was not paid.
The use of child labor, infringement of workers’ rights, long shifts and lack of adequate conditions are called a modern form of slavery.
A brand like GAP, which had 15-year-old girls working at least 18 hours a day in its production facilities, also had a big news story. This happened in 1995, when the discovery ended in a government scandal and the removal of the workshops from El Salvador. But five years later, journalists uncovered a new scoop-a story about a 12-year-old girl working for a company in Cambodia.
There was more than one such seamstress in the factory. They had to work in small, dark rooms that Aljazeera’s journalists compared to a shack in someone’s backyard.
Deteriorating working conditions
Failure to follow safety rules leads to frequent fires, such as in 2010, when 27 people died in Bangladesh, or here in 2012.
But in 2015, journalists from another publication, observing the small town of Grivertop in England, discovered that workers in one of their factories had to work 100 hours a week for 12-13 days without days off. The owners of the production do not take the mercenaries into account – they unconditionally dismiss them for refusing to work on holidays.
Unfortunately, no less problematic are the factories in Japan and China, which have filled our market with their down jackets and masses of other things. This year, activists from South China visited the UNIQLO workshops and witnessed grueling labor. Workers were working in a confined room with temperatures of 38°C, and some were fainting right in their workplaces.
Even Nike’s Vietnamese factories received a negative report from independent experts. The report said that workers had to work in temperatures of at least 30 degrees Celsius in closed, stuffy workshops under the guidance of bosses who yell and steal wages. Even students protested against this treatment in July 2017, demonstrating in front of the factory entrances.
One such story can be found in the files of almost any famous brand making money from “fast fashion. Although there is no denying that, under the supervision of independent experts, working conditions have significantly improved in recent years.
Decrease in product quality
Not happy about the fact that the availability of fashionable clothes for the general mass of consumers implies a low price of goods. More precisely, this fact just the same happy! But the fact that cheap things are of low quality – not so much. But it is impossible to get anything else out of cheap low-quality materials.
However, consumers seem to be fine with this, because anyway the fashion industry offers several variations of models per season, the cost of which is quite affordable. So it is possible to stay on trend and not to regret throwing away things that pollute the environment.
The next most important criterion advocated by the adherents of “sustainable fashion” is the improvement of product quality. The use of environmentally friendly materials, higher quality tailoring. And the “slow fashion” especially emphasizes manual labor, ensuring reliability and environmental friendliness.
Well-matched items are characterized by a certain combinability. That is, they are easily combined with each other and can remain in fashion for several years. The selection of such clothes is engaged in the so-called capsule fashion or “luxury minimalism”. The concept of slow fashion can only be sustained by high quality clothing.
Overconsumption and Fashion Victims
Researchers say over and over again that humanity has become a victim of oversaturation. We are constantly buying, eating, enjoying ourselves to the fullest, and constantly getting more and more information.
Although not everyone is exposed to fashionable “pressure” from the outside. In the risk group, for example, are:
- teenage consumers;
- guests of the show business spheres;
- The employees involved in the fashion industry, and this can also include ordinary store clerks, who are the first to receive the super modern models;
- Those who live in big cities, megalopolises;
- female members of the weaker sex who have not reached the age of 45.
In addition, the list can include consumers with low self-esteem, lovers of public attention and susceptible to the suggestion of advertising.
The sublimation or substitution of other values for material goods leads to the degradation of society and its moral values.
It must be said that victims of fashion have existed at all times:
- the most deplorable consequences are known to be the popularity of a certain type of figure or other external data. Masses of celebrities have suffered from anorexia because of the fashion for a slim figure;
- But the fashion for small feet in China led to little girls having their feet bandaged until they acquired the desired arch shape;
- European fashion for small breasts has forced girls around the world to tighten their chests, preventing them from developing breasts;
- The fainting of medieval fashionistas was a characteristic feature of noble society; the fainting of medieval fashionistas was a feature of nobility. The swoon of the medieval fashionista became a characteristic feature of noble society;
- In Ancient Russia, children were “stamped” with round faces. It was according to the principle of stamping production that children were steamed in a bathhouse, and then the surface of the head was forced to give the desired shape;
- Turks were not considered attractive unless they had characteristic strabismus. For this purpose, infants were tied over the cradle with some object or coin at a close distance to their eyes. In this way, beautiful eyes were formed from birth.
Nowadays, people have learned how to change their appearance through plastic surgery, a quick and affordable procedure that brings people closer to their ideal.
Some are so keen on human “tuning” that they become the heroes of ridicule and cautionary photos online.
Previously mentioned are such famous brands of fast fashion as “H&M”, “GAP”, “ASOS” and “Zara”. But this is by no means a complete list of names known in the fashion industry and among consumers.
“Gloria Jeans, Forever 21, Mango, New Look, New Yorker, Next, Primark, River Island, Topshop, United Colors of Benetton, Uniglo and others. These brands are easy to find in domestic markets, but even easier in Europe or in the United States.
The trend of “fast fashion” cannot but upset the consumer, because in the end we pay a very high price for a few minutes of joy of shopping. We sacrifice our health and the life of the planet as a whole. The currents of steady and slow fashion are designed to prevent such an outcome.
Fast fashion is opposed to sustainable fashion, which seeks to slow the pace of style change. The opposite concept opposes the throwing away or burning of clothes. They believe that things can easily be given a second life through recycling.
The most weighty argument in their favor are the creators of sustainable fashion’s fight for ecological preservation of the environment. On top of that, they believe it is right to educate their customers in a certain ethic of consumption.
This similar notion implies a decrease in the rate of clothing production at the expense of manual labor. The characteristic features of slow fashion products are;
- reliable, high-quality materials;
- environmentally friendly raw materials;
- preservation and careful treatment of nature.
Slow fashion allies call their slogan the fight for quality, which is more important than quantity. Thus, they propose to slow down the pace of production by sewing better quality garments that can last longer.
The future of fast fashion
Marketers suggested that potential customers turn in used items to special points for recycling or humanitarian aid. And for this they offered a good discount on new models. In this way customers, on the contrary, were able and willing to buy even more.
And after all, even recycling clothing made from artificial materials is no less harmful and dangerous to the environment because of chemical dyes and synthetic fibers.
It would probably take a long time to convince “fast fashion” consumers that their needs are threatened by disaster. But a revolutionary turn in the world of fashion promises to be the pandemics of recent years.
At least many designers are convinced that it will greatly affect the minds of people, help them to reconsider their views on the practicality, safety and environmental friendliness of things around them.
Non-factory models are unlikely to become a decoration of the trash cans, because such a product is valuable for its uniqueness and quality. This means that we will wear handmade clothes more than one season in a row.
How to reduce harm?
Undoubtedly, to reduce the harmful influence of fashion industries can only limit the production batches. However, it is unlikely that any of the clothing tycoons will voluntarily give up significant profits. Therefore, the buyers themselves will have to start acting.
- Limit yourself in your purchases. At least abandon unnecessary purchases. This way you can get more expensive, but quality and durable things.
- Support local production, that is, try to buy goods made in their own country. At the moment, the domestic market can offer the consumer no less fashionable, but at the same time high-quality things.
- And, of course, nowhere else can you buy as many exclusive items as in a secondhand store. Some people refuse to buy second-hand clothes because of basic squeamishness, even though textiles must be thoroughly treated and cleaned. On the other hand, the purchase of recycled goods can significantly reduce the polluting emissions into the environment, as production will have to slow down due to decreased demand.
A selection of films
In order to present a complete picture of the influence of the fashion industry, it is worth watching several documentaries revealing the whole truth about the work of the garment industries. After them, today’s fashion and beauty benchmarks will no longer seem as attractive and desirable.
The film “Fast Fashion” by Alex James-the bassist and band Blur-in addition to exploring the dark side of fashion glitz, offers alternative options for dealing with Fast Fashion’s problems.
“From sex worker to seamstress,” a documentary film proves that women in Cambodia are forced to work in factories by government officials for pennies.
Finally, “The Next Black” discusses with designers and community leaders what will happen to the clothes of the future. Some of the film’s characters also offered their own version of salvation from ecological disaster.
The paradox of the beauty industry is that it is mutilating the surface of the earth, destroying living nature. Fast fashion is built on the anguish of poor families and far from noble aspirations. And all so that clothing tycoons could make a good living, and fashionistas around the world could amuse their spirits and shine in the eyes of the public.