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What Is Fast Fashion?

by Toni Olukiran

3min read

As we are made more aware of how our personal shopping habits may affect the environment, the term fast fashion has become widely used to describe a lot of brands but what does it mean? Read on for everything you need to know. 

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion describes fashion brands that sell cheap clothing in large quantities modelled on the latest catwalk and retail trends. This is achieved by mass-producing clothes using cheap materials and disregarding the best practices for sustainably and ethically creating products for a profit. 

Why is fast fashion bad?

  • It’s trends-focused. Trendy clothing is just that: a trend, which means the time will come that you stop wearing it. Nowadays, trends can come and go in the space of a single season which means people buying clothes they may wear a handful of times before being thrown away. Unfortunately, fast fashion anticipates this being the case, and therefore it is most profitable for these brands to continue to churn out these trends with the hope that people continue to spend on the latest fashions. 
  • It promotes overconsumption. Fast fashion makes their clothes very cheap, so the consumer feels more obliged to buy lots of pieces that they perhaps don’t need or don’t see themselves wearing much — but as a result of a low price point, they are still tempted to buy it. When not worn, they are likely thrown away and end up in landfills. Fast fashion brands also produce such huge quantities of clothes that many end up going on sale and then eventually ending up in landfills too.
  • Fast fashion brands rely on unethical factory conditions for their workers. Most fast fashion brands are not transparent about their supply chain, which means many workers aren’t paid a living wage for the clothes they make. In an effort to cut costs and increase profits, clothes can be sold by fast fashion brands at such cheap prices because the company can underpay workers wages that aren’t certified by labour standards and unethical. Putting profit over the welfare of factory workers can have enormous — and deadly — consequences, as demonstrated by the 2013 Dhaka Factory disaster, a garment factory in which 1134 people died when the building collapsed. Clothing manufactured in the building included high street brands Primark, Matalan, Mango, and high fashion brands such as Gucci and Prada.

How can we change our shopping habits?

The easiest thing to do is buy less and buy better quality. The fast fashion industry relies on people needlessly buying clothes as a hobby, and doing massive hauls of your favourite high street brands indeed comes at a cost. So, in many ways, the best way to shop sustainably is to really think about what your personal style is, rather than what these fashion brands say is the ‘it’ look of the month. Invest in staple clothes you can expect to wear in years ahead, rather than cheap and poorly made garments. In fact — approach shopping in the way many of our parents did. Fast fashion and trends-focused approaches only existed in the last twenty years — before then, it was normal to spend more on a few good quality pieces to wear year on year. Also, look for brands with better sustainability initiatives and goals, and with a fair and ethical approach to garment makers. 

For some inspo on where to shop sustainably, read our favourite sustainable clothing brands roundup next. 

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Toni Olukiran
by Toni Olukiran

Toni is one of our lovely Content Marketing Assistants, and when she’s not writing posts about everything from Jamaican cooking to vegan champagne, she’s making a Spotify playlist (she was at 200, at her last count) or playing tennis in the park.

Read more from Toni


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