From unique to ordinary. From locally produced goods to global trends. From ever-lasting pieces to seasonal winds.
When did fashion lose its original exclusivity and become regular? And when did timeless designs change into monthly trends? What actually happened to fashion and what is the way out?
If we start from the beginning, the word “fashion” originates from the Latin word “facare” a word commonly defined as an appearance, shape or pattern that acts as our external extension.
If then, fashion equals personal appearance, should it be as inconsistent and changeable as it is right now? Should we change our personality the way we change our clothes?
But it is important to realize that fashion did not always adopt this kind of culture. There were times, when fashion used to be uniquely designed, produced locally and yet remained eternally fashionable. Let’s take Chanel as an example, whose root constitutes an artistic expression, a cultural experience or even a social movement, altogether creating something revolutionary, something that questions the status quo, something that seeks personal differentiation, rather than social conformity. But sadly now, when I look around all I see is “buy one, get one free” or desperate “on sale” neon signs that are begging for my attention.
But in order to remain resistant and endure these psychological teasers that are constantly watching us, we must start from the very beginning of the fast fashion story.
What is fast fashion?
So anyway, what is fast fashion? Fast fashion is a term that is currently being used to describe the insanely high turnovers of fashion styles and trends. Whereas, in the past where the traditional four main season styles used to dominate, currently it is on average one new style every week. This naturally results in a completely irrational high production of clothing that is, ironically, constantly out of fashion. Therefore, consumers are subconsciously destined to buy more and more pieces in order to continually fit the socially constructed box of “fashionable” or “trendy”.
Do you ever wonder, why are stores always filled with boundless sales? Indeed, fast fashion inflames their business models by never-ending sales that put you, as a consumer, into a position of an impulsive instead of purposeful buyer and makes you seek quantity over of quality.
Why did fashion become fast?
Now, let’s take ZARA as an example. ZARA is a part of the Spanish Inditex corporation, which is the biggest clothing/retail company in the world, in which ZARA remains to make the two- thirds of Inditex’s overall sales. When ZARA opened its store in New York City, during the mid-90s, New Yorkers immediately started to call ZARA the mother of “fast-fashion” due to its rapidly fast production of models, that were suddenly transferred from designs to stores within less than two weeks. This seemed incredible. But wait, it gets better.
Historically, now talking before the invention of photography or TV, new designs often emerged from the fashion houses of Paris, remaining fashionable for at least the next season. This slow turnover of clothing was chiefly caused by the immense lack of transparency. People simply did not know what the fashion of the season was, until they travelled to see it themselves.
However, nowadays the tables have turned drastically when it comes to the transparency of new trends. Due to the digitalized culture of the 21st century as well as the widespread use of the variety of social media, trends appear perpetually everywhere before they even hit the catwalk. And ZARA, smartly enough, took advantage of it. Digitalization and ZARA’s constant focus on market signals and trade shows both fuelled their fast-fashion model. ZARA is now ordinarily able to spot the main designs from fashion weeks’ collections and reflect it in their own work, as it is happening…
All of this seems quite incredible, doesn’t it? So, what is actually wrong with all of this?
What is wrong with ZARA’s fast fashion?
Perhaps, the problem isn’t only entrenched within the existence of fast fashion, but more within the societal acceptance that simultaneously came along with it. Perhaps, the problem is that thousands of us began to accept that our clothes are made from low-quality materials, that are toxic both societally and naturally. Perhaps, the problem is that we gave in to our appearances more than we did to our consciousness. Perhaps it is time to show the caring and responsible side of us.
Fast fashion somehow tricked us all into believing that more is better- but is it even more if we cannot ever sustain it? Is it more, if we throw it away the minute there is a newer and cheaper version?
Here are some of the most horrifying yet most important concerns that we must be aware of when it comes to fast fashion:
textile waste: more than 15 million tons of wasted clothing is generated in the US every year. What happens to the waste?
exploitative labour practices: which involve child labour, poor working conditions or daily work with toxic chemicals.
water waste: the insanely high amount of water that is being used in order to create the amount of clothing fast fashion requires.
carbon emissions: exporting from South East Asia and Africa around the world and high levels of emissions that are released during the production.