What is wrong with fast fashion? 

By Martina Nováková

Fast fashion has turned into a mainstream in the blink of an eye without leaving any time to question its dubious existence. Cheap clothing based on the latest fashion trends – what could go wrong? Now we are realizing that anything with “fast” in the name needs to include an asterisk explaining the hidden dangers to our wellbeing. What’s wrong with fast fashion and what can we do about it? Let’s find out.

The origin of Fast Fashion

The term ‘fast fashion’ was first coined in the 1990s when the New York Times described Zara’s mission to take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores. Ever since, this concept has forever changed the landscape of fashion for good. We can only reminisce over times where brands like GAP and V&D were the coolest cats in town. And many of the top tier labels got bankrupted over the years, unable to keep up with the fast-fashion schedule. Now Zara is just one of the countless fashion houses producing up to 52 collections a year. Why? Because it sells.

Now we are realizing that anything with “fast” in the name needs to include an asterisk explaining the hidden dangers to our wellbeing.

Fast Fashion & Consumerism

Coming up with so many collections a year comes at a great price. It’s estimated fashion brands produce somewhere between 80 billion and 150 billion pieces a year globally. The more brands sell, the higher profit they generate. It is as simple as that. 

And it is rather easy to drive the demand, too. From pricing the items so cheap it looks like a bargain to collaborating with celebrity influencers to turn each item into a must-havethe options seem endless. Whatever ideal they set, it will always be unattainable. The level of success, lifestyle, or beautyit will never be enough unless you buy another shapeless polyester t-shirt with “girlboss” plastered all over it. And it, unfortunately, doesn’t end there. They put their almighty profit above anything elsetheir workers, the environment, and the planet. With this “no tomorrow” mindset, fast fashion brands keep producing an unimaginable amount of CO2 emissions, trying to camouflage that with a little greenwashing on the side. When your business model is unsustainable in the first place, one little collection of upcycled dresses won’t cut it.

Bikini for £1 & hourly wage for £3.50

When Missguided introduced a £1 bikini in 2019, they were met with valid criticism over its suspicious pricing model as well as immense demand, selling them out under an hour after each restock. How could you make a bikini so cheap that you sell them for pennies with a profit? We might have found an answer when an investigation revealed Leicester factories producing the competitor’s Boohoo clothing paid their garment workers £3.50 per hourway below the U.K. minimum wage. Seeing the TikTok video of Boohoo’s long-term ambassador and its new creative director, celebrity influencer Molly-Mae, with more than £70,000 worth of accessories on one wrist, one wonders who is paying the ultimate price of the disposable clothing she promotes. 

Talking about TikTok, have you come across one of the now-infamous $800+ Shein hauls usually featuring a literal mountain of clothes? From the looks of it, the price of sustainable fashion has never been the problem. And the issues with this ultra-fast fashion brand are mounting as well. Many upcoming designers accused Shein of stealing their well-crafted fashion creations and turning them into cheap copycats, sometimes not even changing one bit of the design. With 500 to 2000 new items listed just on Shein alone every single day, one may ask how many is too many for this world to take on. 

One thing is sure - the road of change ahead might be long but is so worth it.

What is NOT wrong with fast fashion, really?

We all know fast fashion has little upside when it comes to the common good. Yet not everyone who shops there is to be blamed for its success. There is a reason why this type of fashion came to be, but there will be many more for it to finally cease to exist. One thing is sure – the road of change ahead might be long but is so worth it.


Photo by Laura van der Spek