What is Fast Fashion

The true cost of staying on trend.

Investment in good quality statement pieces, that serve a purpose, last a lifetime, and makes us feel our best and most beautiful selves is beyond the reach of many. This very predicament is why fast fashion exists – so that most of the world can keep up with the changing seasons and styles, affordably. 

Woman wearing a sweatshirt and a necklace from finders and makers.

What is fast fashion? 

Fast fashion is a manufacturing ethos that has evolved to produce things quickly, cheaply and on trend to keep up with the fashion loving consumers’ insatiable appetite. Fast fashion looks for its competitive edge by being extremely affordable and accessible. Some of the world’s biggest brands have become so by generating huge profits thanks to fast fashion. Their brand was born from the sale of items made from lesser quality materials, in low (or no) minimum wage countries, under less than equitable unfair work conditions, without fair trade, and produced and shipped on a mass scale that further reduces manufacturing and distribution costs. If you find a piece you love and feel shocked (and let’s face it delighted) to discover how cheap it is – chances are its fast fashion.  

Factory workers sewing clothes.

Why does fast fashion exist? 

The demand for fast fashion from the global consumer is how the industry even came about. We shop because our bodies change, and we grow too big or too small for things. We shop under the command of our mood – if we feel upbeat because we have some bonus cash, or if we feel sad and need some cheering up. We shop because we’re going to an event or function where a certain standard will be set that we must keep up with! We shop because we want that shiny new thing now, with the little bit of cash we have left over. These are the foundations that fast fashion was built on. Sadly, the cool credentials of op shop fashion have become tarnished too. In Australia alone, an industry worth more than $90 million has grown out of the export of discarded fast fashion to foreign markets. 

woman choosing pants

How do we know when we’re buying fast fashion? 

If you’re unsure how to navigate the world of fast fashion – look within. As modern consumers, with everything we could possibly want available to buy in an instant, we have the intelligence and capacity to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Still not sure? Think of what you know about how much a metre of fabric, or the raw materials the product is made from might cost. Think about how much you get paid per hour. Then look at where the product was made. Think about what you know of labour in that region. Remember what you’ve read or heard. Think about the freight costs, the marketing costs, the overall experience that the brand offering the product delivers to you. If you think that all those costs combined could reasonably add up to the price you see on the tag, then get out your credit card and treat yourself. If not, put it back on the rack and walk away.  

Fast fashion, Sustainable fashion, minimalist wardrobe. Variety of female blue clothing on hanging on white background with copy space.

How do we make better purchasing choices? 

Shoppers are becoming increasingly more aware of fast fashion and the impact it has on foreign workers, climate change and the environment. Social media has opened our eyes to previously unseen disparities and the more we know, the better we become at improving our choices and behaviours. The increasing drive for consumers to engage in conscious shopping and to shop ethical has given rise to a movement around making fast fashion brands accountable. If you’re unaware of what this looks like in action, simply google a big brand’s name with the term ‘fast fashion’. There is a groundswell around sustainable shopping and conscious consumerism that continues to gain momentum. There are extensive online directories featuring alternative brands that you can support who work hard to make things ethically and do the right things by their suppliers and their consumers.

Shopaholic with purchases

Remember – every little bit helps so take the position of doing what you can, when you can. The all or nothing approach to eliminating fast fashion from your life will have you doomed to fail. Rather than feeling compelled to make good choices all the time, make better choices often and do your bit to making shopping more sustainable and more ethical. 

What small change could you make today to become a more ethical consumer? 

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