In recent years, the fashion industry has faced significant changes in the designing, manufacturing, and selling of apparel. The transition is from a more traditional “seasonal” fashion cycle to the “fast fashion” method of producing clothing items. Fast fashion offers consumers clothing at a quicker pace and fast fashion companies such as Sweden-based H&M and Spain-based Zara are organized differently than higher-end fashion brands that have been operating on the seasonal fashion cycle for years.
In the past, the fashion industry has operated largely on a seasonal basis. In this model, the fall fashion week indicates trends for the upcoming spring, and spring fashion week does the same for the next fall. Designs generally take a few months to be available for the public, and in that time, celebrities can be seen wearing the pieces to make them seem attainable to the consumers by the time they are available in stores. Of course, this model is still used, especially by high-end fashion brands. Fashion weeks are still significant events in the industry, with the four largest being held in New York, Paris, Milan, and London. However, consumers are responding more and more to fast fashion and its benefit of nearly instant purchasing.
Fast fashion, as indicated by its name, is a much speedier process for producing trends and filling stores with apparel for the consumer. Fast fashion brands create around 52 “micro-seasons” per year. They overflow their inventory, have extremely broad target markets, and are able to offer low prices due to lack of quality and the sheer number of products they sell. These brands replicate trends at a rate much faster than the traditional seasonal model, so consumers do not have to wait months before they can purchase a trendy item of clothing.
The benefits of fast fashion are clear: more consumer spending, more profits, and the consumer satisfaction of being able to participate in a trend almost immediately after they see it in magazines or on their favorite celebrities. However, fast fashion creates a host of issues that make it more problematic than it is beneficial.
Fast fashion is infamous for the plethora of companies that rely on low-wage labor that involves poor working conditions for the people making clothing garments. For example, gender-based violence, sexual abuse, harassment, and forced overtime are all reported in Gap supply chains throughout Asia. Furthermore, fast fashion is detrimental to the environment. This industry contributes to climate change, pesticide pollution, and enormous amounts of waste.
In conclusion, fast fashion is a way for buyers to get inexpensive, trendy clothing whenever they feel the urge to shop. However, this method of producing and buying clothing is clearly unsustainable, and there are many costs involved outside of the obvious monetary costs incurred.