There was a time when you had to pay an exorbitant price to get the latest fashions from high-end brands. Lower price retailers were more conservative, waiting for trends to prove themselves in the mainstream before bringing them to their ranges. Fast fashion was born when some retailers noticed this hole in the market and realized that they could use modern manufacturing and supply chain technology to deliver new fashions quickly and cheaply.
There is no question that fast fashion adds a whole lot of fun into the equation. Fast fashion stores like Zara, Topshop, H&M and Forever 21 offer exciting, fresh shopping experiences. The latest trends and silhouettes that were once exclusively available to those who could afford designer items, are now accessible to many more people. And even if designer items are within your reach, fast fashion means you can experiment with more trends and find the ones that work by trial and error.
But the benefits of inexpensive fashion that moves quickly from the catwalk to retail does come at a price. Lower price does not always mean lower quality, but it is true that a lot of fast fashion isn’t manufactured to last a long time. And the focus on keeping up with new trends means that even when items have high-quality fabric and construction, they might not be used for longer than a season.
So trendiness and affordability leads to more consumption, which in turn leads to more production, more transportation and a bigger impact on the environment. The “fast” in fast fashion describes not only the time from catwalk to retail, but also the time from wardrobe to landfill.
I love the excitement and fun of fashion. I shop at Zara and Topshop because I enjoy the shopping experience. I like their design sensibilities and their fits work for me. But I’m also conscious of the environmental impact. So I never let my quality standards drop just to have a fashionable item. I pick the better quality pieces in their ranges. Even if I do only wear an item for one season, I want to be able to pass it on in wearable condition. I try to ensure that my items have a second life, whether that is at Goodwill, Dress for Success or in a friend’s wardrobe.