The term Fast Fashion was first used by the New York Times in 1989, from the Zara shop opening in New York.
The purpose of Fast Fashion is to reproduce the best-known fashion trends seen at fashion shows, in a fast way that generates compulsive purchases.
Let’s see how fast it is: 20 garments per person produced each year, 154 billion pieces in 2017 alone.
It is clear that this type of purchase does not take into account the quality and longevity of the product, and – most important – the rights of those working in the fast fashion industry!
Fast fashion and human rights
Let’s pick one fact. It was April, the 24th, 2013.
We are in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh: thousands of textile workers are evacuated from Rana Plaza, an eight-story building, due to the appearance of cracks in the walls. Shortly afterward, they are allowed back to work.
The building hosts several textile factories by prestigious Western clothing brands. The production must go on.
Today, we can buy a T-Shirt for €1.99 in a shopping mall, and this should make us think about the Dhaka fact, and about other numerous violations of workers’ rights and human rights.
Let’s see how the Fast Fashion industry has become what it is now.
The 4 Fast Fashion Revolutions
In the late 1800s, we see the first acts of brand registration. Today, there are 40 million registered brands in the world, with a top-100 list. In several cases, the name of the product is left out by the name of the producer, so a product comes in association with a brand.
With the advent of television and large-scale distribution, a new language was born: advertising is now based on emotional micro-stories, where the brand itself is a guarantee.
We are in the middle of the 1970s, with an oil crisis going on. We switch from the logic of NEEDS to the logic of DESIRES. The brand acquires a relational value, which we know today: people buy a specific product because they want to be part of the world evoked by that brand.
The fourth revolution is triggered by mobile phones and the web, which increase globalization. This triad generates a compression of space and time categories, which are almost canceled.
In the exponential multiplication of fast fashion messages, the consumer loses his memory. Multinational companies are aware of this and are aiming to reduce the number of brands and to concentrate turnover and value on a few brands.
So, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a not-so-good-before fashion industry! Even before the pandemic, the fashion industry’s inventories were excessive: only 60% of garments were sold at full price.
An industry that is unsustainable for the planet
Since the Geneva Forum in 2018, the UN has put Fast Fashion under the spotlight, as this mode of production is responsible for 20% of wastewater and 10% of global emissions.
Today, as a result of out-of-control production and the consumer’s disposable attitude, every second the whole fashion industry sends one truckload of clothes/accessories to a landfill. And the textile sector is affected by an annual growth rate from 3.5 % to 4.5 %.
We can state that this way of producing and consuming must be reviewed.