Fast Fashion - Disposable Fashion

At some point, we have all been carried away by the tempting concept of fast fashion. ​Having trendy clothes at affordable prices always available sounds enticing because trends constantly change. The idea of always being at the forefront of fashion is quite striking, and suddenly all the old habits we had about what we bought changed. Over the second half of the 20th century, this new fast-fashion concept began to take off, allowing mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at affordable prices, and turning over their wardrobes regularly.

Fast fashion = Constant production that moves quickly from the catwalks to stores to meet new trends. Completely different from the days when people had a few outfits of very good quality that could last a lifetime of use. In some cases, people would even make their own wardrobe. My grandmother and mother sewed beautiful dresses, blouses, skirts, etc. for both themselves and the rest of their family. I remember as if it were yesterday going for a walk with my mom, and stopping to see the shop windows. She always had a notebook and a pen in her bag, and in just a few minutes she drew the clothes she liked to get ideas. It was an experience for me; going out to buy fabrics, buttons, and other accessories, and it was fun getting lost among so many colors and textures. My grandmother studied haute couture, but my mother learned alone from just watching her mother sew all her life. Unfortunately, that quality wasn’t passed on to me.

When the fast fashion movement began in the textile industry, the price difference was quite high. It really was much cheaper to buy a garment or several garments instead of sewing them yourself or buying them in a boutique that worked with natural fibers and dyes made in the same country. What didn’t occur to people at the time was to ask why there was so much difference in prices. Of course, people immediately realized that the quality of fast fashion products was not the same, but most people didn’t inquire any more and were happy to be able to buy so many products for a fraction of what they paid before. The ability to change the way they dress and to be in constant trend, without knowing the process the garments went through to get to them, was what became popular in the western world.

In order to carry out this profitable concept, the big brands chose to make the production of their garments in countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, among others. Most fast fashion clothing is made in countries in which workers' rights are limited or non-existent, and workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. An estimated 168 million children in the world are forced to work in the fashion industry as low skilled workers.

It is also one of the most polluting industries on the planet. 62 million tons of clothing are produced every year in the world, most of it due to fast fashion; buying, wearing, and throwing away. 85% of these garments end up in landfills and garbage dumps, causing more air and soil pollution. In many countries where clothing is produced, untreated toxic wastewaters are dumped into the rivers and oceans unchecked. Major amounts of fresh water are used for the dyeing of the clothes (up to 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed). Every time we wash a synthetic product about 700,000 microfibers are released into the water ending in our oceans as micro-plastics. Due to the habit of buying more than we need, around the world, we buy about 100 billion new garments every year (according to Forbes). Families in the western world throw away an average of 30 kg of clothing every year. Each year, thousands of hectares of endangered and ancient forests are cut down and replaced by plantations of trees used to make wood-based fabrics such as rayon, viscose, and modal.  

As the years pass and with access to so much information on the Internet, there is a growing trend for people to inform themselves, and they are beginning to disclose what is behind the curtain of fast fashion. Raising awareness and informing people via social media is one of the great advantages that we have today. You can choose between having access to all the cheap clothing we have nowadays, and to keep following the pattern of consumerism, or opting for information, and leaning towards slow, sustainable fashion.

There are many brands in the fashion industry today that prioritize the social and environmental aspects of manufacturing and create high-quality garments focusing on artisanal manufacturing which are timeless and versatile. They are sustainable, ethical, have social acceptance, and are a clear example of how fashion should going forward.