The Fast Fashion Industry Explained
Here in Los Angeles, some people go shopping every day. Whether it's at Rodeo Drive, or the Century City Mall, Los Angelenos- and tourists- of all ages, are spending money.
Fast Fashion is a term applied to fashion companies who prioritize money over everything else, and are willing to sacrifice their product’s quality and low environmental impact.
Fast fashion clothing starts with the idea, or rather, the lack-thereof. Designers of large fashion companies like Forever 21, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, Zara, and Old Navy, copy the ideas of both high end retailers like Gucci, and small businesses like Mamamerch.
While it is infuriating for big brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Prada that fast fashion brands are within their rights to be parasitic in nature, it is detrimental to small businesses.
Even though capitalism has many pros, this is one of the ways it goes wrong.
Capitalist companies like Forever 21 nip innovation in the bud. Fast Fashion companies plagiarizing the ideas of smaller companies, and selling their products for cheaper makes attaining self-sustainability through innovation a thousand times harder to attain, which defeats the point of capitalism in the first place. With so many startups around the country, big fast fashion retailers have an eternal spring of content at their feet to copy, and with it, the ability to kill all the small businesses who created said content.
Once the design is copied, production efforts begin. Cheap fabric which damages the environment is bought, and taken to sweatshops where people are forced to work in inhumane conditions that permit child labor, while making astronomically low wages. Once the clothes are mass produced, they are transported across the world, for people like you and me to buy.
Once bought, the owner watches as their new white T-shirt that says “Sassy” across the front both degrades until it needs to be thrown away, and goes out of style. The out-of-style-stock, leftover in stores is then incinerated, because these companies believe it is better for their image to incinerate their brand new leftover clothing, than give it away to those who need to be clothed.
What’s worse, is fast fashion companies are not the only companies incinerating their leftover stock. Companies like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Nike, and more incinerate their leftover stock to maintain exclusivity. The incineration process, of course, is terrible for the environment. For instance, take Polyester, which is made in a chemical reaction involving coal and petroleum. When you burn polyester, which is 60% of the fashion industry’s fiber market, you are essentially burning fuel.
Moreover, the fashion industry is covering up this dirty secret by green washing.
For example, Burberry used to incinerate their leftover stock until late 2018 when people rioted. While Burberry stopped their incinerating, they claimed they were reusing the energy gained from burning. What they failed to mention was that the energy regained from the incineration pales in comparison to the amount of energy put into every garment.
H&M has had a sustainability program since 2013, where you can donate the clothes of any brand, in any condition to the company by bringing them to the store. It is promised that 100% of donations are recycled. This program is the perfect example of green washing because in five years, from 2013 to 2018, H&M had burned 60 tons of new clothing, all to maintain their so-called 'exclusivity.'
Fortunately, there is some good news. Environmentally sustainable brands like Aritzia, and Reformation, Chnge, and so many more are gaining popularity. Forever 21 went bankrupt in 2019, and was forced to close thousands of stores globally. Zara is switching to sustainable fabrics, which is a great step towards being a sustaibanle brand. Consumers are beginning to realize that their power lies in their pockets, and are making conscious choices as to what they want to spend.
As always, I’ll leave you with a question: what are you doing to avoid fast fashion? If we think about these issues whenever we go hang out at our hot local mall, we can all reduce the amount of problems we create.
Haddad, Hanan. “Gucci Is Suing Forever 21 Over Plagiarism.” Harper's Bazaar Singapore, Harper's Bazaar Singapore, 10 Aug. 2017,
Leo, Kirsten, director. Fast Fashion Explained in Under Five Minutes. YouTube, YouTube, 26 Sept. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR7bXsoNwwE&feature=youtu.be.
Lieber, Chavie. “Burberry Says It Won't Destroy Unsold Merch Anymore. But Plenty of Other Fashion Brands Still Do.” Vox, Vox, 17 Sept. 2018, www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/17/17852294/fashion- brands-burning-merchandise-burberry-nike-h-and-m.
Lieber, Chavie. “Fashion Brands Steal Design Ideas All the Time. And It's Completely Legal.” Vox, Vox, 27 Apr. 2018, www.vox.com/2018/4/27/17281022/fashion-brands-knockoffs-copyright-stolen-designs- old-navy-zara-h-and-m.
Maheshwari, Sapna. “Forever 21 Bankruptcy Signals a Shift in Consumer Tastes.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Sept. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/business/forever-21-bankruptcy.html.
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West, Dean. “How Is Polyester Made? - How Is Polyester Made?” Craftechind, 2018, www.craftechind.com/how-is-polyester-made/.