Fast fashion became a very popular term and it is often associated with the pollution of the fashion industries and huge companies like Primark, Zara and H&M.
What is the definition of fast fashion?
The term Fast fashion refers to a clothes making technique that rapidly produces clothes to follow the latest trends in the fashion industry at a very low cost.
Low cost is at the core of fast fashion success. Pieces very similar to designers’ are sold at one-tenth of the cost.
Also, fast fashion drastically reduced the time span needed for a cloth to be designed, produced and sold. Before, this process used to take months. Now it can take less than two weeks.
How is Fast Fashion profitable?
What keeps this business model alive is the extremely low production price.
Due to usually low-quality materials, high order quantities, and often questionable conditions of the workforce, fast fashion companies are able to produce anything for a fraction of what other clothing companies would pay.
These reductions in the production cost are what makes profitable to sell a sweater for 8€.
Another big saving happens in marketing. Companies like Zara and Primark can let products, prices and other companies make the marketing for them.
It sounds strange, but one of their primary strength is leveraging the work of other companies. How? When a luxury brand produces and promotes a new design, fast fashion companies are able to produce similar designs in a matter of weeks, letting the marketing for the orginal piece doing the work for them.
No need to pay millions on huge advertising campaigns. If that money will result in increased product prices, it is not going to be spent.
Prices and products are the main marketing drive for fast fashion companies.
How big is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is valued at $35 billion as of 2018 and expected to grow up to a $44 billion valuation by 2028, according to Statista.
The growth from 2008 to 2018 was over 60%.
Inditex (owner of Zara, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti and many others) has established itself as the second-largest apparel retailing company with $30.7 billion in sales.
The biggest (and maybe only) threat to fast fashion dominance, seems to be the awakened awareness around the big environmental and social implications connected with it. So, let’s dive into that now!
How polluting is fast fashion?
Other than a direct contribution to these numbers, fast fashion is to blame for promoting an extremely consumerist approach to clothes.
If we only bought what we needed, even the most polluting production would not be as big as the problem we are facing now.
Sad, I know. But true. We buy items, we trash 6 months after. While the life span of clothes in developed countries halves, consumption doubles.
More than anything, I see in this a threat to our environment. It is scary as it does not only apply to fashion.
Intemperate consumption seems to be routed in the human behaviours and we are not doing anything to de-incentivize it. Our brain takes changes much slower than society. If we asked it, we are still hunting mammoth, and we should act accordingly. We should eat everything we can today, even tho we are full.
We have very few moments of clarity. Why not use them to acknowledge that we are flooded beings and we need structures that prevent us from being self-disruptive?
I do not think we will ever stop producing and buying. And it is terrifying to calculate what this could mean for many societies.
As always, we should find a balance. Est modus in rebus; Horace said it 2050 years ago but we still do not get it.