Currently, some of the largest clothing retailers in the world are fast fashion chains. Brands like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 are known for providing a huge variety of clothing in the latest fashions at incredibly low prices. Remember, if something like this sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Amid growing concerns about sustainability, slave labor, and other unethical business practices, fast fashion chains are finally starting to take a hit.
The rise of fast fashion first happened when the way people viewed fashion started to change. Thanks to the internet, fashion trends could be spread around the world almost instantly. The wealth of information generated by clothing blogs, social media websites, and other clothing chains made it easy for companies to analyze trends and have items move from the design stage to the retail stage in as little as five weeks.
As the trend cycle began to move quicker and quicker, consumers wanted more and more clothes. Companies quickly realized that instead of making items meant to last for years, they could make cheap items, drop their prices, and completely take over the market. Some retailers like Fashion Nova launch up to 900 new styles per week, at prices that are a fifth of how much clothing used to cost.
Since about 2000, fast fashion chains have seemed unstoppable. However, with Forever 21 declaring bankruptcy in late 2019, many fashion experts now believe that the industry has achieved a “tipping point.” The sudden downturn is mainly due to consumers becoming aware of the hidden costs behind fast fashion. One big issue is environmental concerns, with the production of polyester clothing being responsible for 706 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. Another significant issue is slave labor, with industry giants being found to use cotton produced by enslaved Muslim minority populations in China, clothing sewn by young children, and products produced in factories that refuse to pay living wages.
Consumers are starting to demand sustainably and ethically produced clothing. Many express that they are willing to pay more for garments that are well made and long-lasting. There is also a growing rise in the secondhand clothing market, as people search to find cheap clothing that does not compromise their morals.