Fashion + Diversity

Fast Fashion: Is It Really All That Bad?

Certainly, we all have read or heard something along the lines of how detrimental fast fashion is. We’ve been told about its negative impact on the environment, the horrendous ways garment workers are treated and how it is simply impractical due to its low quality causing people to discard it quickly.

For many of us, fast fashion is something that is here today and gone tomorrow. One in three women in the UK consider an item to be old after wearing it twice. Moreover, due to the inexpensive price tag, we find ourselves buying two or more of the same item, or being comfortable with tossing an item away because “it didn’t cost that much.”  By altering our outlook on clothing, fast fashion has managed to maintain consumers as well as train them to buy new outfits just as rapidly as they are being produced. I can list countless articles that explore the disadvantages of fast fashion even deeper, however, I think we should also take note of the benefits that have resulted from the expansion of fast fashion.

Fast fashion has changed our lives 

Since the early 2000s, our society has rapidly evolved into one where we are directly influenced by people other than those who we personally interact with on a daily basis. The influx of influencers on social media proves this. Daily, we are given insight into the lives of people we have never met, yet we admire. This admiration is one that has caused fast fashion to be particularly beneficial for those of us who want the style and fashions that our favourite influencers have, but we just don’t have the budget for it. Gone are the days where a new design could be seen on the runways of Paris, and all we could possibly do was dream of wearing something like that. Thanks to fast fashion, we are now able to wear replicas of outfits merely days after an influencer or celebrity was spotted wearing it.

This same benefit has also been viewed as disadvantage by some, as seen through a lawsuit Kim Kardashian filed last year. Fast fashion is simply that: fast. Due to this, those who do have the funds to afford the original designs, can sometimes find fast fashion to be a nuisance. Whereas, for those of us living on a budget, particularly a student budget, fast fashion can be an amazing thing.

Are there truly benefits?

Through fast fashion, we finally have a moment to dress as glamorously as we feel without breaking the bank in the process. Nowadays, the world and the internet is our runway. Through our fashion choices we are able to express ourselves beyond words. However, if we were only to shop from luxury brands, a lot of us would not be able to make the statements we would like to make.

Furthermore, fast fashion has completely changed the dynamic of social class’ correlation to clothing. In the Victorian era, social classes were instantly identified by their clothing. The outfits worn by those in the upper class could only have been afforded by them, and as such, clothing made the statement of what someone’s background truly was. An accessory as simple as a hat with a feather could tell you whether someone was from a wealthy family or not.

However, these days, social class is not as easy to distinguish. In fact, class lines have never been so blurred when it comes to fashion, and the reason is obvious: fast fashion has made an impact.

Diminishing the status quo and bridging the gap

As I stated earlier, being on a student budget also means that fast fashion can come in handy. When I reflect on my time in university, I would be lying if I said that it was easy for me to distinguish one’s social class. In actuality, I was never able to distinguish one’s social class – not that I cared to. Regardless, I say this to show how in a group of over 1,000 people, I would be unable to distinguish between them. The same cannot be said about the decades before.

If we look at history, clothing has always been used as a means of knowing who is who. As a current example, in some jobs, people wear uniforms to help customers know who to go to for assistance, as well as to show a sense of organisation and unity. This is the same sense of organisation and unity that is seen through all the people wearing blue and red Santa Claus outfits during Liverpool’s annual Santa Dash. Clothing provides us with information about the person wearing it.

Nevertheless, when people are able to wear what they want, the information clothing provides us with becomes a bit blurry. In present time, throughout our day-to-day lives, clothing makes a statement about our personal style and what we like, but unlike previous eras, clothing does not have to say how much you have in your bank account. Instead of defining the lines between us, fast fashion bridges a gap that allows us to be just as stylish as the influencers on Instagram without the high cost of keeping up an image.

Life before fast fashion

Moreover, fast fashion has proved to be extremely beneficial for those in a lower-income class to avoid some of the scrutiny or discrimination that may come with their social class.

Consider a scenario where there are two people applying for the same job and they have the similar qualifications, however, they are of a different social class. As it is important to put your best foot forward for an interview, dressing the part is vital. However, there was once a time where business attire was very expensive. Due to this, the candidate from the low-income background (Candidate A) was unable to afford new and appropriate attire, whereas the candidate from a high-income background (Candidate B) was. With Candidate A arriving to the interview without professional attire, the interviewer may quickly write them off as being unprofessional, thus the job goes to Candidate B.

This scenario shows not only the power of clothing, but also how unfair society can be if one is not dressed to fit in with their environment. Fast fashion has certainly helped to circumvent scenarios, such as the one I described above, by giving a variety of people access to the styles of clothing they did not have before. Nonetheless, I must clarify that fast fashion can only be beneficial in this way at a surface level. Fast fashion does not remove all scrutiny, but it has clearly made a difference in the areas where it can.

So, is it bad or not?

All things considered, though fast fashion does not have the best reputation across the world, it is not all bad. It has helped us to express ourselves more thoroughly, as well as given those of us a form of armour when we needed it; protecting and shielding us from the opinions and discrimination that might have come our way if we did not have it. Thus, to some extent, we should commend fast fashion. It has made a necessary difference in the way clothing reflects social class and has brought people from an array of backgrounds together because of this change.

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