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Fashion: Fast and Faux

Is Fast Fashion really benefiting us? Why is the industry thriving and are there consequences to this pocket-friendly style? The term “Fast Fashion” refers to the mass production of products relating to the latest trends at a cheap price. It involves continuously introducing new designs and clothing lines and catering to a large audience. It aims to provide runway designs to the youth, which is the target audience for fast fashion brands.

But why is it so popular? Is a good social media presence important for fast fashion brands?

Seeking is a core instinct of the human brain, it is human nature to want more. One is never truly satisfied and even though a new item brings us happiness, it is often short lived. We move on and the desire for something new creeps in. The fast fashion industry targets our desire to want more and by constantly providing new items, it feeds our hunger for new fashion and style. Social media plays a vital role in this, it is the biggest supporter and endorser of fast fashion. Brands use social media platforms to make potential customers desire their clothes, accessories etc. They use models, celebrities and social media influencers to endorse their products and make people believe what their brand offers is what they want. Nowadays, social media platforms are the trendsetters. Trends refer to what is most popular and is being worn by the majority population. But, trends die down fast and a new one comes up. Hence, fast fashion is most suitable in keeping up with it. Brands have to be quick in identifying the latest trends and cater to them while they are still making a buzz on social media.

Why is a greater section of society attracted towards cheap clothing instead of luxury?

The fast fashion industry provides cheap and affordable items which are seen as disposable whereas luxury goods are mainly seen as an investment. When the buyer has to pay a greater amount, it will expect much greater utility from the item and would consider it to be much more valuable than a comparatively cheaper item. Fast fashion goods are in style for a short period of time and go out of fashion as a new trend comes in. Therefore, they are disposed of quickly. This has also led to an increase in waste production. Many customers would only wear a fast fashion good a few times before disposing of it. The Saturday Evening Post 2018 says that an average American throws 81 pounds of clothing annually. The fast fashion brands and social media encourages us to follow trends and keep up with the latest style, hence making the items seem old and undesirable.

The buyer must analyse the true cost of the fashion they are purchasing.

While the cost of production and final product cost in the fast fashion industry are low, it is quite costly on the environment. The House of Common Environmental Audit Committee, 2019 has said that textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined and as per the data by the UN Environment 2019 the clothing industry is also responsible for 8% of the carbon emissions. A fast fashion company generally uses poor or mediocre quality raw materials and cheap resources to have the least possible cost of production. Due to the low production cost, the products are then sold at affordable prices. But the over utilisation of depleting resources and environmental harm that the industry is causing, is too big of a cost being borne not just by the buyers but all of mankind. The clothes are made using synthetic dyes and petrochemical textiles, which are harmful to the environment. The waste produced is let go into the water bodies and overflowing landfills which is dangerous to the aquatic fauna and the nearby human population. Cotton and polyester, the mainly used raw materials, are both associated with significant health impacts during the manufacturing and production processes. The workers are often working in life-threatening conditions with safety regulations being ignored. They are prone to many respiratory diseases and accidents. Even though the conditions have started getting better and workers are now more aware, many still continue to work in horrid conditions with no or barely any safety precautions. The 2020 Fashion Transparency Index found that only 5 of the 250 brands that they surveyed were paying their workforce an acceptable wage. One must pay attention to the true cost of the fashion that seems to give us such joy. Is it really necessary to abide by the rules of social media and follow the latest trends. Is the cost worth it? The miserable conditions of the workers and the environmental effects, is it not a cost too high for a clothing item. The buyers as well the fast fashion industry must focus on the damage that has been already caused. Sustainability should be the goal instead of greater profits.

Ananya Sharma
Writing Mentorship, 2021

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