Who wouldn't want a gorgeous dress that looks designer but only costs £10? It's hard to say no to that, but what's the catch? Many of us buy our clothes from fast-fashion brands or "high street" retailers like H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, or faster-fashion brands like Shein, Boohoo, and PrettyLittleThing. We shop with these brands because they save us money by offering a stylish selection of clothes and accessories at an unbeatable and affordable — yet sadly unethical — price. The problem with fast fashion is that although it offers exceptional convenience to fashion-lovers, there is a hidden cost that we're all paying for without realising. Much like fast food, fast fashion is filled with questionable chemicals and bits of plastic and it exploits humans. But what makes it so "fast"? We investigate.
The fast-fashion industry is one of the greatest financial success stories of our time, at the expense of being one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity. Fast fashion is fast because of how quickly it can get the trending clothing item of the moment from the factory to your front door. How brands like Boohoo and Fashion Nova are able to knock off a new designer item and have it for sale online or in-store within a week is not the work of magic. It's all because of a carefully structured and very ruthless moneymaking scheme called the fast-fashion business model.
In the fast-fashion business model . . . massive factories use vulnerable communities to produce a high volume of clothing at a very low cost.
In the fast-fashion business model, multimillion-dollar companies are able to copy the work of independent designers and the latest catwalk trends. Then, massive factories use vulnerable communities to produce a high volume of clothing at a very low cost. The clothes are cheap because fast-fashion brands and their factory suppliers exploit that money from their workers and do not pay a living wage in most cases. High-street retailers also cut costs by using dangerous chemicals and plastics to make the fabrics, instead of more sustainable alternatives like Desserto, Mylo, and Piñatex. The speed at which fast fashion can create a garment is all due to two things: overworked people that are being taken advantage of, and exploited international shipping routes that are a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
As consumers, it's not our fault that the fast-fashion business model is fixated on chasing and replicating the latest trends by any means necessary. It's the responsibility of high-street executives who are becoming wealthier while we are being sold toxic clothes and the rights of garment workers are left unprotected. But we can all play a part in encouraging the fast-fashion industry to provide more ethical and sustainable clothing by investing in an independent fashion brand once in a while, instead of checking the high street first.