What is fast fashion and how is it becoming a threat to the planet?

The fashion industry is growing rapidly; a new design gets launched in the market and the first thing you’ll see is people getting in line to buy it. Fortunately or unfortunately, everyone has the desire of blending in with the latest trends in order to look chic. Everyone is so concerned about the way they look due to people’s judgement as people seem to stick to their initial judgements. However, this should not be the case since not everyone has the means and access to the ever-growing fashion industry as it mostly caters to the upper class or the upper-middle class of the society. Fast fashion is generally referred to as the process of upheaving the trends presented on a fashion show catwalk to the retail stores and turning them into cheap yet chic outfits, appealing to everyone’s taste buds.

Fast fashion deteriorating the earth
The New York Times

Fashion and Human Psychology

Fashion designers and trend-setters have been playing with human psychology since the beginning and they never fail to meet the consumer’s demand for new trends. They play their part in the cycle by being the creators of that demand in the first place.

If we talk a little bit about the human anatomy here, it is a proven fact that shopping releases a hormone in our body known as ‘oxytocin’. The release of the hormone is soothing to our body and we become addicted to any activity that results in its release. In simpler words, if the designers manage to hook a person to shopping with their everlasting fashion designs, they will keep coming back for more.

Fast Fashion Today

Brands follow their own process of Supply Chain Management (SCM) which is the flow of goods and services including all processes that transform raw materials into final products. It involves the active streamlining of a business’ supply-side activities to maximize customer value and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It is much like a symbiotic relationship between the manufacturer and the customer, an act where both the parties benefit resulting in a win-win situation.

The benefit brands have here is that people tend to buy anything they like at first glance with the fear of not finding it again on the next visit. Hence, they do not wait for the prices to go down once the stock has to be cleared out. This way, the brands sell more at a higher initial price and the customers are always ready to shop because there is almost always a new variety with every visit.

Social Media Expediting the Fashion World

When we come to think of it, what part of our lives has social media not touched? Everything is at a wavering pace of just one click away. A huge number of influencers and entrepreneurs are using this platform to promote what they preach, including fashion, to support their dreams. With so many people working as social media influencers, especially on instagram, thousands or even millions of people look up to them. Die-hard followers would go to sheer lengths to copy the style their idols adapt to.

Social media has provided brands a platform to further expedite their fast fashion probably at even a higher pace through digital media than that of their outlets in the retail stores. A good example would be that of the Kardashians, the supernovas of fashion. The world knows and praises the family for their sense of fashion and lifestyle. Anything they state as fashion will be and anything they discard will be yesterday’s news. All it takes for them is a moment to rejuvenate what is hip and what is not and the world would follow.

Fashion Nova’s CEO said that with the help of websites, they manage to announce 600-900 different fashion designs per week. With such a large variety of designs available easily online, it has, in turn, pressured most instagram icons into wearing something new every time they go out or upload a picture. A report by Barnando’s charity 2019 stated that 2.7 billion pounds are spent by the British solely on clothes for the summer that they will only wear once.

Environmental Impact

With all these perks reinstated, there are bound to be drawbacks of fast fashion. Who would have known that someday fashion could play a part in leaving the Earth in a life and death situation? With all these speedy fashion trends coming in and out, according to Coresight Research, a large number of clothes get thrown out as waste. The fibres used in some cheap dresses are not easily degradable and have started piling up, adding another pollution factor to the Earth. The process of making these apparels releases up to 706 tons of greenhouse gases a year, playing a major role in contaminating the water.

Besides the adverse effects fast fashion has on Earth, critics are prone to believing that these high cost and fancy brands do not pay proper wages to their employees or even consider using eco-friendly material to benefit the planet. This is where the consumers are at fault too. Research shows that people are more likely to buy a product at a cheaper rate with no regards to the fact how it’s processed or the likelihood of its sustainability. These people would also show no regard and often forget the unethical ways these products are manufactured through.

Fast fashion deteriorating the earth
Wrong Maye-E/Associative Press

One way these big brands get away with any lawsuits against them is due to the use of middle-man companies, factories of which are situated overseas or miles apart. The New York Times published a report on Fashion Nova that stated that the fancy online retailers when investigated by the US labour department, discovered that they were underpaying their laborers and owed them millions in wages.

Moreover, in a totally different report of McKinsey in 2019, experts believe that fast fashion has lost its appeal to the public and people are now more drawn towards second-hand clothing. Hence, the resale values are likely to increase to high potential in the coming 10 years.

Fast fashion deteriorating the earth
Wrong Maye-E/Associative Press
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