"Fast Fashion" is a phrase that is often used as a buzz word in the fashion industry. It has to do with sustainability and the industry is constantly being pushed into one that is much more ethical in that regard. It's important to understand what fast fashion means and what it is to succeed with the efforts.
Fast fashion is essentially a design, production, and marketing method that has the intent to produce higher volumes of clothing for greater economies of scale with no focus on sustainability. The focus is more on lowering production costs by using lower quality of materials which don't last to bring less expensive clothing to the marketplace. This clothing is generally very cheaply manufactured, and they are 'trendy' pieces that go out of style quickly. Rather than expense and sustainability in the luxury of say men's leather gloves
, the consumer wants more for less. This encourages more consumption, and it ends up being devastating to the environment because of it.
However, to fully understand fast fashion, you must first familiarise yourself with the movement and the context of it.
Trend Replication and Rapid Production
Up until around the mid-20th century, the fashion industry as a whole went through 4 distinct seasons. Thus, any fashion designers would look to position themselves months ahead of these seasons to predict what styles would be hot and what styles wouldn't be. While the methodology behind it is much more precise nowadays, it ended up taking away a lot of the agency from consumers. Before fashion becoming largely accessible for the mass market, it was usually restricted to those who had more money.
In the 1960s when a very timely marketing campaign for paper clothing
came out, it showcased that the mainstream public was ready to embrace the fast fashion trend. This ended up pushing the manufacturers in the fashion industry to lower costs and speed up production.
It has become much more prevalent for stores to stockpile stock to avoid running out. However, it wasn't until a decade or two later when the fashion industry ran on fast fashion alone. It was in the mid-2000's decade when things became vogue for 'boho chic.'
Creating On Trend Pieces
Because of this, you will find the fashion industry spiralling through 52 different 'seasons' in a single year. This is where you will find a new collection being released on a seemingly weekly basis. This trend shifted according to Elizabeth Cline when Zara started doing bi-weekly deliveries of brand-new merchandise. Since this point in time, it has been much more increasingly popular to see a lot of retailers have too much stock at once, so they don't run out of clothing. This has enabled brands to replicate both fashion week trends and streetwear trends to allow them to create desirable clothing on a seemingly daily basis. This allows brands to have a large amount of different sellable clothing which keeps consumers constantly looking to buy more and more.
While certain brands get called out for overproducing clothing
like Zara, H&M and even Top Shop - there are a lot of luxury brands that are doing the same thing. In fact, according to Fast Company, "apparel companies [are manufacturing] 53 million tons of [clothing] into the world [on an annual basis]. If the industry [continues at its pace of growth], it is expected to reach a [whopping] 160 million tons by the year"2050."
Low Quality and Low Costs
There is plenty of debate about what came first whether it was the desire for new styles or the manufacturers trying to convince us that trends rapidly evolve. While this is a hard one to answer, there is no doubt that a lot of consumers have a "Fear of Missing Out" mentality.