Is fast fashion going out of fashion?

High street fashion has reached a fork in the road. The downward spiral for high-street retailers has led to a number of once-dominant companies falling into liquidation, and consumers are happy to resort to online shopping to fulfil their wardrobe demands, particularly following the struggles of lockdown in March 2020. 

With the continued rise in internet shopping, it’s clear that fast fashion brands like Missguided, PrettyLittleThing and ASOS are still seeing stock flying off their “shelves”. In 2020, Channel 4 gave us an insight into the inner workings of fast-fashion with the documentary; Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester. They boast about being ‘rapid fashion’, as opposed to ‘fast fashion’ and can sometimes be seen to produce up to 1000 new products each week. 

What is fast fashion? 

Years ago, fashion trends were a lot simpler. Manifesting themselves as four trends per year, based on the seasons. In the late 1990s and 2000s, low-cost fashion reached its peak; nowadays, trends are almost as throwaway as the items of clothing that encompass them, introducing sometimes more than two or three in a single month. 

Fast fashion is the concept of following trends that are often created based on the fashion choices of celebrities, Instagram influencers, and the like. Typical fast fashion brands work to beat their competitors to re-brand, and redesign these styles - creating something affordable for the clothing market. In our fast-paced and throwaway society, fast fashion has an enormous negative environmental footprint.  Fast fashion also has severe negative social impacts on the garment workers who make these clothes. In recent years, both individuals and companies have started looking to create better and more sustainable and ethical alternatives to fast fashion.

Fast fashion vs ethical fashion

Clothing manufacturing can consume a lot of energy and resources, and it often relies on harmful fabric dyes and other chemicals that, when untreated, can pollute fresh water. Now, imagine this in a fast, and large-scale production. 

Unfortunately, many of the negative consequences of the fast fashion industry are not directly felt in the Western world and by consumers who buy these clothes.  But if we examine the chain of this industry a little more closely, the real damage soon becomes evident. Often, hardly worn and unwanted clothing ends up in third world countries; the Kantamanto market in Ghana is a prime example of this type of importing from the UK. The market is a second-hand hub for disused clothing and western cast-offs. Whilst you could argue that this has the positive impact of creating thousands of jobs, there is no guarantee of a profit and many of the workers suffer permanent injury from this laborious and often dangerous work. 

Another downside is that a large majority of the clothing imported is unwearable, and ends up in landfill, strewn across beaches and nestled within slums - polluting the oceans and being burnt, releasing toxins into the atmosphere. Accra, in Ghana reports 160 tonnes of waste fabric being disposed of every single day, on top of this, synthetic textiles can take hundreds of years to decompose. 

The responsibility lies not only within the fashion brands (which typically overproduce by 40%) but also with us as responsible and caring individuals. It helps to not only be more conscientious when choosing the clothes that we are buying, but also, the quality of the items we are donating.

With this in mind, in July 2021, Primark reported that Q3 sales were up 207% year-on-year. Which begs the question whether the majority of society would even consider dropping fast fashion? It’s affordable, convenient and, with the right market research, on-trend. Like most crises’, we are depending on a wholesale system change, and not solely on individual change. 

What’s the future looking like for fast fashion?

As awareness builds around the toxicity of the fast fashion industry, there are a number of brands promoting sustainable resources and more ethical means of production. Online selling sites such as Depop and Vinted have become all the rage in recent years, seeing people opt for secondhand clothing from individual sellers, as an alternative to buying new garments from larger fashion brands. 

Although it is impossible to predict how fast fashion will evolve in the future, sales in high street stores have surged since their reopening. 

Surprisingly, online shopping can often be more sustainable than getting your garments in bricks and mortar stores, and brands like THE-CØDED are promoting an online ethical fashion platform, allowing buyers to see exactly, how and where their clothes are made, and by whom. We work closely with factories, to promote sustainability, transparency and ethical production and consumption.

Supporting factories with THE-CØDED

At THE-CØDED, we only work with quality manufacturers who have ethical practices at the heart of their business. This means that when customers shop at the-coded.com, they can be confident that the clothing they are buying is made to last for years to come. Where possible, we encourage our partners to use natural materials in the clothing they produce - such as wool, cotton and leather. 

We have worked with and created partnerships with skilled manufacturers all around the world over the years, many of whom produce garments and accessories for international brands and retailers. Our vision ensures that manufacturers receive a fair share of the profits, whilst promoting livable working conditions, fair wages and tackling the current stigma surrounding the fast fashion industry. You can find out more about our partners here

Work with us and join the ethical fashion revolution. Contact us through our online form for any other queries.

We invite you to read our story and learn what we want to do, and why we want to do it. We hope you’ll be joining us on our journey.

August 25, 2021 — James Browne