The Problem with Fast Fashion


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Up until the end of the 20th century, significantly less clothing was produced, and it was produced at a slower rate. The benefits of this slower fashion was the higher quality of clothes that was produced, which was able to last for many years. This changed in the 1990s, when fashion companies like Zara began getting popular. These companies became labeled as “fast fashion” businesses due to how quickly they were able to design and produce clothing at the expense of quality. Trend cycles began speeding up and prices for clothes began to drop. These companies gained more popularity during the 21st century, with trend cycles becoming even faster as social media became prominent in modern society. Although fast fashion by nature is designed to be overconsumed, the overconsumption of fashion is still heavily influenced by social media due to microtrends being easily formed and people feeling pressured to present themselves in a better light when posting online. 

“Microtrends” are trends that go out of fashion shortly after they are created. In the past, microtrends were trends that lasted between 3-5 years, while in recent years many microtrends are going out of fashion after a few months. A possible explanation for this is the rise of fast fashion haul videos, which consist of people showing off large amounts of clothing they’ve bought. For instance, the article “Chinese e-commerce giant Shein has become a $15 billion company. Here’s how it gets consumers to keep spending,” talks about how these videos lead to more people investing in fast fashion brands: “Now, Shein reportedly adds 2,000 new styles a day. This is already tempting to the average shopper, but even more so to content creators who order from Shein in bulk to film haul videos. These videos often bring in millions of views. And the more items you can unbox in a video, the more impressive it is. (Kim and Kupelian par 4). This shows the reach that these haul videos have, as well as their appeal. Since such a large amount of people view these videos, it’s even more likely that they’ll want to buy the items shown in them. Due to the many styles of clothes added each day, even more haul videos can be produced by influencers, which motivates people to buy the latest styles of clothing while the clothes they previously bought hardly gets used. 

Many people feel the need to show off only the best aspects of their life online. One of these aspects is fashion. In Julia Bonavita’s “The Growing Impact of TikTok Micro-trends in Fashion”, she discusses a common belief that many internet users have relating to fashion: “With terms like ‘cheugy’ – something that was once stylish but no longer is – and “camp” – outrageous fashion – floating around the internet, consumers are often faced with the decision to participate in fast fashion and micro-trends or be labeled as ‘out of style’” (par 12). This belief is supported by an interview on The Guardian with a young woman, where she discusses her stance on showing her outfits online. “I can’t take another picture in [the outfit] because I already posted it,’ says Teresko.” (Kale 1). Her statement shows how the societal pressure that you have to be seen as “trendy” influences what people buy. It encourages people to spend more money on clothes that they won’t wear often and traps them in a cycle of constantly buying clothes to keep up with trends. 

If you open up any social media app and search “Shein” or any other fast fashion brand, you’ll find thousands of videos and posts of people spending large sums of money on equally large amounts of clothing. Many of these videos receive thousands and sometimes millions of likes. The amount of attention and positive reactions these posts receive impacts the amount of clothes people buy, since people want to gain popularity while being seen as “trendy” online.