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January 4, 2024

Fast Fashion Leads to Poorer Quality Clothes

Fast fashion leads to poor-quality items and a poorer quality of life for workers

Our Clothes May Be Getting Cheaper, but Their Quality Isn’t

What makes fashion fast is one, how consumers consume and two, how clothing is produced. These variables are not separate and have a direct relationship to each other and with the earth.

Trends & Fast Fashion

With new trends comes the emergency in the production line to keep up. Suddenly “that’s so 2008” has become “that’s so last week”. This is how fast-moving a trend may be; it’s here for the sprint, not the mile. A trend lacks stamina and can only be in the moment of things.

In turn, the average fashion consumer is influenced to alter their wardrobe with a frequency that accelerates the development and testing of the merchandise itself. This pressure results in high quantity to satisfy high demand but at a great loss of quality in design.

Design & Planned Obsolence

The Industrial Designers Society of America defines design as “the marriage of appearance and utility”.  This marriage centers on three key elements: aesthetics, function, and make-ability. The last step--how a thing is made--tends to be where most changes are. [1]

In 1932, real estate broker Bernard London coined the term “planned obsolescence” to suggest a season or expectancy of a product’s life in an industry model where fashion would rotate along a healthier cycle. Meanwhile, fashion companies today are motivated to produce as fast as consumer behaviors allow for, which is moved by what is desirable or undesirable at any given time.

Unsustainable Cost

In the 21st century alone, quality has diminished considerably--with design choices meant to fall apart or worse. Using cheap synthetic fabric made from plastic (BPA) material like polyester has been linked to a “little-understood cascade of health effects”. [2] The production line of such low-quality merchandise is maintained by workers who are grossly underpaid and over-labored. With consumer spending in fashion being five times more now than in the ‘80s, “the quality of the item and the quality of life for workers have to take a hit” to produce that quickly. [1]

Online shops like Shein, which gained popularity at the start of the pandemic, can sell fast fashion at a cheap market because it is low quality and workers must perform as fast as consumption demands. While sales rose from 10 billion in 2020 to 100 billion in 2022, Shein’s workers earned a base salary of approximately $556 per month with one off-day every month. [3,4]

Conclusion

As the culture of consumption stands, consumers have more power as agents of change than corporations themselves. How we shift this culture relies on how we shift our behaviors; this includes but is not limited to the rate of our consumption and where we choose to consume. With the proper research, we can make more conscious decisions: from the rate and brands we consume to the responsibility to care and repair. There is also a significant movement toward buying secondhand, organizing clothes swaps, repurposing fabric, or redesigning entire articles of clothing. Every effort to reduce contributions to fast fashion is relevant and accessible to the everyday person

References

[1] https://www.vox.com/the-goods/23529587/consumer-goods-quality-fast-fashion-technology

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2023/jul/02/fashion-chemicals-pfas-bpa-toxic#:~:text=Some%20chemicals%20found%20in%20clothing,and%20fatigue%20to%20infertility%20and

[3] https://time.com/6247732/shein-climate-change-labor-fashion/#:~:text=A%20global%20juggernaut&text=Over%20the%20years%2C%20Shein%20went,whopping%20%24100%20billion%20in%202022.)

[4] https://successiblelife.com/shein-workers-absolutely-need-our-help-heres-why-2023/#:~:text=However%2C%20the%20work%20hours%20aren,of%20Shein%20clothing%20for%20women.)