The fashion industry moves fast. That’s why many fashion multinationals believe that they should move at the same pace in order to keep up with the newest fashion trends.
From the moment there is a new clothing piece or style that is “in trend”, fashion companies rush to design, produce and ship those in-trend clothing pieces as fast as they possibly can to get them in the shops before the trend is over.
Moreover, the fashion industry tries to convince us that we should continuously buy new collections and that their older collections are now “out of style”. That boyfriend jeans or crop top you just bought a few weeks ago? Don’t even think about wearing it anymore, because now the must-have outfit is something completely different.
Especially in the US, fast fashion is very popular since 88% of consumers buy fast fashion regularly. In Europe, this is 46% of consumers, 25% in India, and 21% in China.
Fast fashion might be affordable, but what we don’t see is the significant negative impact fast fashion brands have on our society.
The extremely low price points are only possible because of these companies’ cost-cutting measures.
Not only is this mass production of cheap clothing one of the largest polluters in the world and it goes hand-in-hand with global warming, water pollution, and deforestation, but it also uses child labor, people exploitation, and unfair working conditions to keep production costs as low as possible.
Moreover, in most cases, these clothing items are made from such poor quality, that the color fades, and the fabric feels worn out after only a few washes. On average, a mass-produced clothing item is only worn 7 times after it gets thrown out.
In this blog post, we will go in-depth on what fast fashion actually is, the downsides of it, and why you should choose sustainable options instead. We will also cover what YOU can do in order to stop supporting this industry and some recommendations for eco-friendly and sustainable fashion brands you can shop guilt-free.
1. What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is the massive production of clothes at a record pace. In three words, fast fashion can be described as clothing that is cheap, disposable, and trendy. Fast fashion brands are focused on short-term seasonal trends that are quickly replaced by other ones, instead of focusing on quality and durability.
Because these clothing items are made of low-quality materials and fabrics that aren’t made to last and go quickly out of style, they get thrown out fast.
Moreover, the ever-changing fashion trends, the extremely cheap price points, and the fact that shops are refreshing their stocks on a weekly basis, makes purchasing clothes on impulse easy and affordable.
However, with fast fashion arises different kinds of environmental issues, as well as ethical concerns (later more about these negative consequences).
2. Origins of Fast Fashion
But you might ask… when and how did the movement of fast fashion originate from?
Once upon a time, people had a very small wardrobe with about 12 outfits they wore over and over again. These clothing pieces were tailor-made with many fittings and high-quality fabrics and hence were sold at a much higher price point.
Then, new technologies were introduced such as sewing and textile machines, which made the production process of clothes cheaper, easier and quicker. Moreover, during the Second World War, fabric restrictions and chronic shortages in supply forced fashion companies to think out of the box and standardize production.
People got more and more accustomed to the idea of mass-produced fashion and became more receptive to it.
At that time, designers were working several months in advance to predict the fashion trends of the next season, so a new collection of clothes was launched every season.
Towards the beginning of the nineties, since younger generations started creating new trends, fashion companies started focusing on creating faster responsiveness to these new trends. The concept of adding several mid-season launches to the fashion calendar, where new collections in smaller batches were released, became the standard practice.
And that was the start of a booming industry, where people (especially in the USA) enthusiastically participated in consuming these ever-changing “in-style” fashion items.
Nowadays, on average people in developed countries buy about 64 fashion items per year.
3. The Effects it has on Society
Though fast fashion is irresistibly cheap and trendy, now more than ever, we just can’t ignore the true cost of the fashion items we purchase.
1. Our Environment
One of the consequences of fast fashion that no longer can be ignored is the tremendous bad effects it has on the environment.
The majority of the most known fashion giants sell fashion that contains petroleum-based fibers such as nylon and polyester. These fibers of course aren’t biodegradable and take centuries to decompose in landfills. That’s why these are responsible for around 35% of the microplastics contaminating our oceans and creating the plastic soup that you can see these days, as well as the large garbage dumps covering great plains of the world.
On top of that, the industry is causing a depletion of raw materials, from non-renewable sources. And of course, the greenhouse gases that cause increasingly violent, unnatural weather conditions.
2. Unfair Wages & Child Exploitation
Second, the extremely low production cost of fast fashion also goes hand-in-hand with inhumane working conditions, extremely low wages, and even child labor.
Workers in mass-production factories often need to work 16-hour days with no pauses or breaks in unsafe conditions with sometimes toxic chemicals and aggressive, discriminating executives and suppliers.
3. Unfair Competition
On top of that, because these fashion giants are able to produce their clothing items at such a low price-point and hence, can sell these items at a ridiculously low price, often local brands that do produce their items closer to home often can’t compete and go out of business.
4. What you can do to stop fast fashion brands
It all begins with you... If you want to stop supporting the fast fashion industry, you can do a lot more than you might think!
In this section, you can read all you need to know about how to stop contributing to the problem and create a more sustainable, eco-friendly wardrobe.
1. Shopping Habits
We think that we don’t have any power over what happens in the world, but we certainly do. Especially when it comes to the (fast) fashion industry.
Our spending and buying habits certainly over time create big waves of change. With every penny that we spend, we are supporting someone or something. And that’s why it’s important to know the impact that our shopping habits will have on the environment.
The market is shaped by the consumer, so if we collectively start making different choices and more and more people start adopting the same mindset and standing up against the industry, these companies will eventually need to change in order to survive.
Don’t underestimate the power of your choices and actions. They do count.
We need to shift to an industry where clothes are made to last a long time, if not a lifetime.
We, as consumers, also need to shift to a mindset where we love the clothes we already own, instead of always looking to buy new ones.
2. Sustainable Solutions
Luckily, there are more and more sustainable solutions if we decide not to support the fast fashion industry anymore.
Buy Second Hand
Go to the thrift store! Not only you may find absolute gems in these stores, but you also pay a fraction of the price.
The cool thing about fashion is that it’s definitely cyclic. Fashion items of twenty — even thirty years ago come back in style.
Right now 2000s clothes are back in style, a couple of years ago the 80s were super trendy.
So the thrift store might be the place to shop for unique items that are in style, and no one else has.
Rent Clothes from a Clothing Library
Do you get quickly bored of your wardrobe? Then this option might be ideal for you!
A great alternative solution that you can try out, are clothing libraries where you can rent the most beautiful pieces on a monthly basis.
It’s definitely a win-win situation if you like variety in what you wear and still secretly love to continuously change up your wardrobe guilt-free.
Check if there isn’t a clothing library nearby you and get a subscription there.
If you want to stop supporting fast fashion brands, buying from more sustainable clothing brands from local entrepreneurs and creators may be your best bet.
On La Boutique you can find a wide range of sustainable, eco-friendly, and fairly produced clothing. By buying their products, you are supporting local and sustainable businesses and saying no to fast fashion brands.
Trade Clothes with your friends or give your clothes a second life
Instead of throwing it away, you can also decide to reuse your old clothes. Are you creative? Or secretly a tiny bit jealous of the fashionable wardrobe of your friends?
Then why don’t you try organizing a fun, clothing-swap party with your friends? Or… Grab your sewing machine, and scissors and cut that oversized sweater into a cropped one.
Make it a fun, little project and steal the show with the clothing you designed yourself. And you may even find yourself a new hobby. ;-)
3. Other Trends & Future Alternatives
Nowadays, there is a rise in sustainable movements, creators, and people who are becoming increasingly aware of the negative consequences of fast fashion and want it to change.
This inspired Stephane Kattie as well to start La Boutique and collaborate with like-minded creators who focus on eco-friendly materials and local, ethical, and sustainable production processes.
5. Sustainable fashion brands we recommend
As we’ve mentioned before, on La Boutique you can find a large number of different local creators and sustainable fashion brands.
Check out some of our recommendations below, and make sure to explore the marketplace to find more!
- Sustainable underwear made from spent coffee grounds.
- Undercharments uses other sustainable materials like Bamboo & Lyocell in their collections.
- The brand also gives a small part of its profits to IFAW which is a non-profit making the world better for animals & humans.
Nila The Label
- Swimwear made from recycled ocean plastics such as discarded fishing nets recovered from the ocean.
- All Nila pieces are made using ECONYL yarn, which is a 100% regenerated nylon yarn obtained from pre- and post-consumer nylon waste.
- They are able to turn waste problems into solutions and the result is our collection of premium quality swimwear.
- Consciously made in Italy in a family-run knitwear factory.
- Made using organic cotton.
- antonia erre uses quality yarns that have sustainable compositions and certifications.
- Environmentally friendly and air-purifying in use, eliminating greenhouse gases and viruses.
- Made using 100% organic cotton.
- GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard)
- These colorful Cotton Knitted Shawls are hand knitted by Yasna in the Passionis Verae atelier in Amsterdam.
- Made using high-quality cotton.
What are some of your favorite sustainable solutions? Let us know in the comments!