“Fast fashion” is a term for stores that sell fashionable but cheaply made clothing at low prices to a mass consumer market. Fast fashion clothes are quickly copied from designer collections and manufactured at low cost in what many say are exploitive conditions around the world.
Many say fast fashion is the reason that EDGE Fashion Intelligence calls the fashion industry the second largest polluter in the world emitting 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2eq from greenhouse gas emissions.
Fast fashion retailers include Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Shein, ASOS, Fashion Nova, and Mango.
Those companies are “constantly making new clothes and putting out new products week by week,” said Briana Campos, an undergrad fashion student at Arizona State University. “People want the ‘new,’ so they’re constantly trying to keep up with the trends.”
Maja Peirce, creative magazine director at an Arizona State University news website that covers fashion and style news, says, “it kind of keeps the consumers on their toes; they’re constantly searching for the new best thing.”
The 2019 annual report of Inditex reported Zara, the leading fast-fashion store, made over 19.5 million euros in network sales.
The worldwide web has made fast fashion production faster. Spending money on cheap clothes has never been easier.
Peirce said, “In order to make a product cheap, they have to produce a lot because factories set a specific minimum. It’s cheaper to produce more product and then sell it for cheaper.”
“If they’re buying more clothing, they’re throwing away old clothing,” said Peirce.
The Environmental Protection Agency stated the 15.1 million tons of textile waste was produced in 2013.
It’s not only global retailers that sell fast fashion,.Michelle Alvarez, the owner of Mi Boutiquee, started her small business in November 2019. She posts her clothing on a Facebook page, with over nearly 3,000 members.
Alvarez shares her products on the page, and her followers message her to place an order.
“A friend of mine introduced me to an app where he bought his things and would resell them,” said Alvarez.
The app, Alibaba is the largest web retail site in China and one of the largest in the world. It sells products to consumers directly from the manufacture.
EDGE also reports that “40% of apparel products sold in the U.S. are imported from China.”
Alvarez downloaded the app and started her Facebook page after the conversation with her friend. She explained her process, “I look on the app for the clothing, and I just save the ones I like. Then I send my vendor all the styles I was interested in, and then she sends me a quote. From there, I see the prices and think about if the price is worth it and if they’ll sell.”
She said her business was doing well at the beginning of launching. In September, Alvarez decided she wasn’t making enough profit and chose to reduce her orders.
As of now, Alvarez only takes pre-orders of clothes she wants to sell.
Campos said, “Forever 21 and H&M buy all these products in bulk from the manufacture, and then they have a bunch leftover that they have to discount in clearance.”
According to EDGE Fashion Intelligence, about 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of cotton, which equals one pair of jeans.
“Small businesses, they’re just buying a little bit of a product and then seeing how it works out and then kind of going from there,” said Campos.
Maybe something like Peirce says more sustainability is definitely needed in the fashion retail business, “I love fashion just like the next person, and I love new looks and everything, but I think that we could do a lot better in finding ways to revamp clothing and upcycle things instead.”
For those looking for more sustainability in their clothes shopping, thrift stores can be an alternative. Stores like Savers, Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, and Plato’s Closet in Arizona sell used apparel.
Peirce said, “I also think we just need to buy less in general because even if you decide to go thrifting and give away old clothes… they often end up in landfills anyway.”
Instead of buying new clothes every season, Peirce suggests that everyone learn how to “revamp” clothing they already have in their closet to reduce waste.