The Fast Fashion Industry Explained
Updated: Aug 1
Here in Los Angeles, people go shopping every day. Whether it's on Rodeo Drive, or the Century City Mall, Los Angelenos- and tourists- are spending money.
"Fast Fashion" is a term applied to clothing companies whose top priority is making money, and are willing to sacrifice their product’s quality and low environmental impact, in order to capitalize profit.
Fast fashion clothing is conceived in 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.
This is where capitalism goes wrong.
Fast Fashion companies plagiarize the uncopyrighted ideas of smaller companies, sell the product for cheaper, and make having a successful small business fashion business a near-impossible venture.
With so many startups around the country, mega- fast-fashion-retailers have an eternal spring of content they can steal from under the noses of novice entrepreneurs, and with it, they possess the ability to shut down small businesses who create their own designs.
Once a design is copied, production efforts begin.
Unsustainable and cost-effective fabric is bought, and taken to sweatshops which allow child labor, inhumane working conditions, and astronomically low wages.
Once the clothes have been mass produced, they are transported across the world (on air and ocean polluting vessels), for people like you and I to purchase at remarkably affordable prices.
Once bought, the owner watches as their new beige bomber with a curiously similar motif to Gucci's logo degrades, and goes out of style.
The overproduced stock, which never left the warehouse, is then incinerated, because these companies believe in the "exclusivity through scarcity" principle. These companies' logic, is that consumers are more willing to buy a product if there is less of it in circulation. So naturally, their minds go to burning things.
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 this "profound" 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 oil.
Moreover, the fashion industry is covering up their dirty secret through green washing.
Burberry used to incinerate their leftover stock until late 2018 when people rioted. While Burberry halted their incinerating, they claimed they were reusing the energy gained from burning their leftover clothes. They failed to mention that the energy regained from 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, by bringing them to the store. It is promised that 100% of donations are recycled. This program is the perfect example of green washing. In five years, from 2013 to 2018, H&M had burned 60 tons of new clothing, while promising to recycle outsourced clothing. The environment has no net gain from this initiative, it just makes H&M look better. They aren't recycling the clothes they are incinerating, because they don't actually care about the environment. Like all fast fashion brands, H&M is only in for the profit.
Fortunately, there is some good news. Environmentally sustainable brands like Aritzia, Reformation, Chnge, and so many more are gaining popularity. Forever 21 went bankrupt in 2019, and was forced to close hundreds of stores globally, and Zara is switching to sustainable fabrics.
Consumers are beginning to realize that power lies in their pockets, and are making environmentally conscious choices while shopping.
Remember, the next time you pass by Forever 21 and see a cool five dollar T-shirt in the display window, resist the urge to walk out with a plastic yellow bag, and a BPA chemical-covered receipt.
Because if we feed off the parasites, what's the difference between them and us?
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.
Pearson, Daniel. “H&M Responds to Thrasher's Flame Logo Plagiarism Accusation.” Highsnobiety, Highsnobiety, 17 Feb. 2017, www.highsnobiety.com/2017/02/06/forever-21-thrasher-logo-copy/.
West, Dean. “How Is Polyester Made? - How Is Polyester Made?” Craftechind, 2018, www.craftechind.com/how-is-polyester-made/.