Fast fashion refers to the growing popularity of mass produced, cheap, and low-quality clothing that are pushed into the market and cycled in and out as the current trends fade and new trends emerge. The speed at which products complete their sales lifecycle creates a competitive advantage for the organisations engaged in it. The core business model of fast fashion relies on the fact that many people tend to purchase low quality products more frequently than higher quality ones occasionally. This is especially true for fashion where the trend and design choices have a high impact on consumer choice. The result is that consumers are led to continuously purchase and discard poor quality clothing as they are more susceptible to changes in the current trends in the market. This has resulted in rapid consumerism of clothing and fashion products which creates an unsustainable cycle of manufacturing and waste.
Fast fashion as a practice became popular with the apparel brand Zara’s New York mission to take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold to the consumer in stores such as Scanlan Theodore stores in Sydney. The most notable fast fashion brands in the world include H&M, forever 21, UNIQLO who are known for their ability to capture the current state of the market and produce affordable clothing. These companies have found success in this venture and have been able to outplay their competitors in the industry. This has resulted in many other designers and players in the fashion industry shifting their focus to fast fashion.
Heavy consumerism in any industry generally carries various environmental issues resulting from the extreme amounts of waste produced. The textile industry produces almost a hundred million tonnes of waste every year, and the production process requires huge amounts of energy which naturally results in more waste, from the production of energy. The textile industry alone is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global wastewater, from textile dyeing.
The fast fashion industry relies heavily on a supply push economy, where the manufacturers create the product and push it onto the customer. This has resulted in many companies competing to create the most products the fastest and release it into the market quickly. The apparel industry is a trillion-dollar market and is continually growing, which highlights the gravity of the situation. Moreover, employees working in the manufacturing level of fast fashion brands are generally underpaid or are working in sub-standard conditions in third-world countries.
This sales model used by the fashion industry is highly unsustainable and creates massive amounts of waste while releasing poor quality products to the consumers. Since the people likely to be the customers of fast fashion products are those with relatively low income, this is exploitative to both the consumer as well the employees involved in manufacturing. Additionally, since the emphasis is on reducing costs, toxic chemicals, untreated waste, and untreated pollutants are released to the environment as a result.