Fast fashion is a popular term used in the clothing industry to describe an exploitative and highly lucrative business model, based upon mass-manufacturing high-quality and replicating fashions, at extremely low cost. It has become a huge success in the recent years because it can offer a new look to clothes at a fraction of the cost of hand-made items. Fast fashion businesses exploit the fact that consumers want new clothes on the basis of short-term purchases. They supply all the materials to the retailers at a very low price and make money when they sell the same items to other retailers at a higher price.
The major benefit for the manufacturer is that their factory can produce large quantities of merchandise. Because no material is wasted, it means they must produce more garments in less time, using fewer resources. Because workers in the fast fashion industry do not have the same rights as other employees, working conditions can be violent. Conditions in the factories can lead to serious health problems for factory workers who are not provided with the proper protective clothing. Fast fashion garments are made by garment factories that do not follow safe working conditions.
Many of the brands in the fast fashion sector do not follow sustainable fashion principles. Some fast fashion brands, such as A Pea in the Pod, use exploitable sweatshops where children work for long hours under unsafe conditions. A Pea in the Pod label was sued by a group of prominent US politicians over the sweatshop conditions in which they manufacture their clothes. Most of the top labels have refused to sign the compact for protecting the rights of children working in sweatshops.
Fast Fashion represents the worst practices of the clothing manufacturing industry. It uses cheap manufactured fabrics, such as polyester, that will destroy the ozone layer and contribute to climate change. The fashion industry is contributing its own pollution to our environment by using water intensive processes, by using hazardous chemicals, and by buying products from countries where working conditions are substandard. Fast fashion garments often require no or inadequate worker safety equipment, and clothing is often produced in unsafe environments.
Fast fashion brands claim that their clothing contains minimal amounts of fabric shrinkage. They also claim that the fabrics used in their clothes do not contain any P.R.E.P. – or polyester/olor rayon, which means that the fibers do not cause allergic reactions. However, these fibers do contain toxins that have been linked to organ toxicity, cancer, and birth defects. Many studies show that fast fashion workers are exposed to very high levels of toxins and these toxins get into their bodies through their skin, their hair, their bodies, and through the clothes they wear every day.
Fast fashion clothing companies take advantage of global labor shortages and poverty wages to reduce their costs, so they can sell their products for less. By making their clothing cheaper, the companies are able to raise their profit margins, and thus they can increase their profits. With less clothing made for less pay, fast fashion workers are left with less disposable income to purchase new clothes, and they live paycheck to paycheck. It seems as if fast fashion workers are forced to work for less and for much longer hours than their counterparts in other industries. Fast fashion clothing companies have turned their backs on their workers.
Some fast fashion brands have made efforts to improve their environmental conditions and to reduce their toxic exposure, but many of these efforts are superficial at best. In fact, many of the brands that have been criticized for the harmful chemicals they use have used similar chemicals to those they advertise. Some companies have gone so far as to give free passes to workers to attend clothing buyer’s exhibitions, where they can openly display the chemicals they use.
By avoiding ethical issues, consumers can expect a cheap price, but without all of the high quality, durable clothing that they would enjoy at a higher price. Consumers who know what they want in clothing, and shop at a trusted name will find exactly what they want. People who are not well informed about the various types of garments will have a difficult time finding quality at a low price, and this is where the issue lies. Choosing a reputable brand is the only way to shop for quality clothing at a reasonable price. Some people will shop online, where there are numerous brands available at a fraction of the price of brick and mortar retailers. However, when the consumer is willing to take some time and do their research, they will be able to find the very best clothing at a fair price, without any surprises.