What is Fast Fashion?

By Andrew Mwaniki on February 28 2020 in Environment

The primary goal of fast fashion companies is for customers to buy as many garments as possible and as quickly as possible. Editorial Credit: Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash
The primary goal of fast fashion companies is for customers to buy as many garments as possible and as quickly as possible. Editorial Credit: Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash
  • Fast fashion focuses on trends and does little to create long-lasting value.
  • Fast fashion has an extremely fast turnaround time.
  • A large percentage of fast fashion clothing is contaminated with lead.

Fast fashion is a trend in the fashion industry where there is a rapid turnover of new clothes and styles in a period of as little as one week. The production process of such garments is expedited to quickly match up with the market demands of particular clothing styles and fashions. The new trends are brought to the market in high volumes at a very low price. Fast-fashion retailers have challenged the traditional fashion schedule of introducing fashion lines on a seasonal basis of perhaps two times in a year; summer/spring and autumn/winter. Today, multiple products are added on a weekly basis to meet the need for trending clothes as opposed to the desire of them.

Fast Fashion Strategy

Fast fashion depends on a highly effective supply-chain management that ensures clothes are manufactured and shipped to fashion retailers in the shortest time possible. This kind of innovation in supply chain management is aimed at driving sales and ensuring that consumers keep visiting the retail stores to keep up with trending fashions. The increase in the number of collections has seen an increase in profit margin for the retailers and store owners at the expense of quality to the consumer. As a result, fast fashion has been criticized for focusing on the mass production of cheap clothing while putting little effort into the value end for the consumer.

To quickly produce a product that is cost-efficient and that responds to the ever-volatile consumer preferences, fast fashion retailers needed to understand their target market in a more profound sense. Fast fashion designers developed a high fashion looking item that was readily affordable and priced at the low end of the clothing sector. This helped to maximize sales volumes and profits while satisfying the customer’s need of trending fashion. The fast fashion market collaborated with foreign manufacturers by outsourcing the workforce in developing countries to keep the prices at a minimum.

A Flourishing Industry

The use of new technological systems and an efficient supply chain are the main reasons why the fast fashion industry has flourished. This, coupled with a positive reaction from consumers, has accelerated the dominance of fast fashion in many developed countries. Fashion companies figured out an efficient way of keeping up with the on-trend fashion by reducing the time between developing the fashion concept, actual manufacturing process and the delivery to the retail stores. The continuous and regular supply of new styles helps to keep interested among consumers which inevitably leads to more spending and an increase in sales. By segmenting the supply chain such that high fashion garments are produced locally or closer to home while basic items are created in the far east, companies become more flexible and can react to market demands more quickly. All parts of the supply chain are then linked together through new technological systems.

Fast Fashion Controversies

While fast fashion helps to satisfy the need for new trending styles, it does little to create long-lasting value. Most of the clothes are cheap and do not last for long. Most consumers will buy the clothes in response to the trending fashions rather than the desire for such garments. The industry is primarily driven by sales volume by making consumers feel out of trend and therefore stimulate the need to buy the latest fashion at a low cost. The primary goal of fast fashion companies is for customers to buy as many garments as possible and as quickly as possible.

Factory workers are adversely affected by the increasing pressures to keep up with trending clothes. This translates to more working hours to meet the deadlines for production. On average, the factory worker spends 13-14 hours per day sewing clothes that will be shipped in less than a week or two. The mounting pressure and workload are detrimental to the health of most workers, whereby some describe the situation as dire; it makes their arms sore and stiff. The fast fashion industry is also rife with reports of child labor. To reduce financial outlay, most companies resort to the cheap workforce in developing countries where most employees are young and below the minimum age. This is especially so in the poorest countries.

According to the Center for Environmental Health, most fast fashion chains such as H&M, Forever21, and Zara still sell lead-contaminated items which have an adverse effect on the environment. Most of the garments contain lead and other heavy metals which pollute water sources. In the United States, about 12.8 million tons of clothes are sent to landfills every year where they contaminate the soil and groundwater due to their toxic chemicals and dyes. Additionally, these take almost 200 years to decompose. The burning of fast fashion clothes increases CO2 emissions, which leads to global warming. These inevitably lead to rising temperatures and water shortages.

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