What is Fast Fashion? Creating a More Conscious Wardrobe

Seasons, styles and momentary trends — the world of fashion has undergone a series of monumental changes over the last few decades, and not always for the better…

The term fast fashion has been gradually filtering into our conversations and social feeds more and more as our awareness of climate change and consumerism grows. So, we’ve delved into the topic of fast fashion to discover what exactly is defined as ‘fast fashion’ and how you can make your own positive fashion choices going forward.

Changing fast fashion | Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Life before Fast Fashion

The history of fashion is extremely fascinating. Like today, trends came and went, but up until the 20th century, fashion changed at a much slower pace.

It was often more associated with figures of high society. Queens, Kings, and noblemen and women could afford to spend extra money on the latest fashions, and they could afford luxurious materials and the labour of many seamstresses and textile workers.

The industrial revolution accelerated the production processes for fashion. Garments could be created by machine, instead of by hand, making them much more affordable.

Fashion has always been a way to express individual style, and as clothing became cheaper and more readily available, changing trends soon began to gain pace.

Fast Fashion is the process of creating cheap clothing, that holds little value and It can be thrown away without a second thought. It is created ‘quickly’, to keep up with passing trends, and maximise profits for fast fashion brands.

The Impact of Fast Fashion on People

It has now been widely documented that cheap clothing brands have been guilty of turning a blind eye to the conditions of the factories where their products are created. In some instances, the effects have been devastating.

On Workers

We’re all familiar with terms like ‘sweat shop’, which sadly are the modern equivalent of industrial workhouses that came about in the industrial revolution between 1760 and 1840. Factory collapses, atrocious working conditions, unfair pay and exploitation are how many fast fashion brands are able to grow so quickly and retain huge profits.

Fashion workers | Photo by Rio Lecatompessy on Unsplash

On Consumers

Whilst affordable fashion has given access to fashion to all, it has encouraged a ‘throwaway’ culture amongst consumers. It’s now affordable to follow every passing trend, and throw out the old clothes without any consideration.

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion has several enormous and detrimental effects on our planet.

  • Poorly regulated factories release toxic chemicals and bleaches used in the manufacturing process of clothes.
  • Our throwaway culture is responsible for an excessive amount of clothes ending up in landfill sites.
  • Microfibres from polyester clothes end up in waterways and oceans.
  • The dyeing, washing and general production process involved in making clothes uses a lot of water.
  • Fast Fashion and Climate Change: Fashion as a whole contributes over 10% of all global carbon emissions each year. 

Who are the Fast Fashion Fiends?

Thankfully, a great number of fast fashion brands are recognising and accepting the impact they have on the world. Whilst our appetite for new trends hasn’t changed, brands are trying to use recycled, eco-conscious, ethical and sustainable materials within their clothes and products.

Brands like H&M, Zara, Primark, Boohoo and SHEIN are all notorious for being fast fashion fiends. Their collections are added to regularly, with thousands of items, and items are usually created in a country with access to cheap labour, and from cheap, non-natural materials like polyester.

Red capital letters with the word 'Sale', on a shop window of fast fashion brand H&M.
A H&M shop window sale advertistment | Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

How to Avoid Fast Fashion and Limit Your fashion Impact

Here are 5 ways you can make an impact in your own wardrobe… 

  • Opt for second hand and pre-loved items! Here at Timeless Vintage we’re proud to be able to offer pre-loved designer handbags, accessories and clothing, and give these exquisitely crafted items a second life. Many celebrities support vintage and second hand purchasing, like Emma Watson and Kate Moss.
  • Limit how often you buy new clothes, or set a monthly cap.
  • Choose brands who are ethical, secondhand or who favour sustainable and natural materials like organic cotton or recycled polyester.
  • Have a clear out! Sell or consign a designer handbag or donate clothes to a charity.
  • Hire a personal stylist: They will be able to match items into outfits so it feels less necessary to own lots of options.
Photo of woman in sunglasses and red lipstick holding lots of paper shopping bags. Representing consumerism and fast fashion.
When buying clothes opt for brands that are more ethical | Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Want To Know More About Fast Fashion?

There is a brilliant documentary online called ‘The True Cost’, which uncovers the effects of fast fashion. There’s also a new series on Netflix called ‘Broken’, which explores the effects of different industries and their impact on us.

It’s never been more important for us to understand the impact our fashion choices have on other people and the planet.


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