Fast Fashion is like speed dating for fabrics; we’re falling in and out of love with our clothes so quickly that many are lustless after one date. It’s an industry worth $3 trillion churning out 80 billion garments per year and going from concept to checkout in a week. We weren’t born into Fast Fashion, so how did we let it take over?
We could trace fast-fashion’s history back thousands of years to when we started wearing clothes in the first place, but for now I want to focus on one period in time that I believe to be the real birthplace of it all: the Industrial Revolution.
Late nineteenth century, we clever humans worked out how to produce things en masse. Our world of commerce flipped on its head from one of demand-based supply, to supply-based demand and so our rate of production began exceeding our rate of consumption.
To rid themselves of costly surplus stocks, companies invented Marketing teams to cultivate a sense of craving and turn our needs into wants.
Today’s Fast Fashion mania really scares me and I’m neck-deep in the industry, so I’m coming at this with a little bit more insight than most.
Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections are a thing of the past and brands are now churning out micro-trends on a weekly basis. No sooner have you invested in one style, it feels like it’s time to wear another.
Luxury brands like Burberry with their “See Now, Buy Now“ philosophy are bringing high fashion trends from the runway to our wardrobes in a matter of minutes and our much-loved high street names aren’t far behind.
While the likes of Zara and H&M do a very good job at getting these trends to the high street within a matter of weeks, they’ve now been overtaken by überfast online fashion retailers such as Missguided and Boohoo who offer affordable catwalk trends to the masses within seven days.
Fast is becoming ultra-fast.
It’s draining resources more than ever and squeezing every last penny out of the back end of the supply chain. It’s one of the biggest polluters on the planet.
The quality of clothes is diminishing – things are made to fall apart after a few washes so you come back for more. Catwalks’ seasons have turned into weekly churn-outs.
It’s making us want more, spend more and waste more. Clothes are depreciating assets that are loveless after one wear. The struggle against a Zara Addiction is real.
Whichever way you look at it, we’ve all been vacuumed up by the Marketing Machine. It’s psychological wizardry really; offering out ephemeral pleasures of the masses to nourish egos of the gluttonous few.
Fast-fashion very cleverly taps into a lot of our human drives that date back thousands of millennia when our homosapien selves wandered the grasslands of Africa and when our oldest part of the brain, the limbic system, aided survival of the fittest.
A lot of our instinctive reactions are emotionally driven. Emotions were how we made nanosecond decisions to stay alive: fight or flight. And in today’s world our emotions still take the lead in our automatic decision-making, even when we’re shopping.
It’s a combination of all of those drives that keep us wrapped in the mania of fashion.
Vanity. We developed vanity to help us attract a mate, to carry on our species and today, whether we dress to impress others or just to give ourselves a boost, we still care about our appearance. In our quest to look good and feel good, we drape ourselves in fabric flamboyance in the hope of getting closer and closer to a forever unattainable perfection we see on the glossy pages of a magazine.
Another staple feature from our evolutionary past and again relating back to survival is our insatiable appetite. We are never satisfied with what we have and we always want more. This is the reason fast fashion’s weekly churn-outs will always appeal.
And we’re competitive. When the sales are on, we know they’re for a limited time only and develop this distinct fear of missing out on a bargain. Even if the items on sale are end of line, we forget that they’re last season and soon to be replaced by the latest fashion and fantasise them up into being unique, rare, must-haves that we just can’t live without. We want to get there first, before the competition does.
The advent of social media has propelled this behaviour into a new dimension. We’re our own personal paparazzi and wouldn’t dare be seen on Instagram wearing the same outfit twice. We’re blasted with hundreds of new look ideas every day. Our need for newness has got out of hand.
The biggest culprit is our conscience. It’s sneaked away quietly and has hdden itself at the bottom of our wardrobes.
And even though I immerse myself in this world through research and have devoted my ten year career to fashion, up until a year ago, I was still caught up in it all.
I’m talking extreme. I mean, let me level with you – I was a self-confessed wardrobe whore battling with a serious Zara addiction. I had about eleven double wardrobes, bursting at the seams. It was everything from Primark to Prada and a whole load of second hand treasures.
I was in the shops two to three times per week hoping to adopt a new addition to an ever-growing thread family and when I found something I loved, I’d double up knowing that it would probably fall apart.
Last year I was struck with some sort of lightning bolt from the Gods of Sortyerlifeout and decided to go tête-à-tête with my squanderlusting self.
I’ve been immersing myself in a world of goodness and am making small decisions that I know will reap big rewards. And after twelve months of only three well thought out purchases, I can now proudly call myself a conscious fashion consumer.