First, a quick history lesson.
As we think about cavemen all the way to medieval days, people generally possessed very few material belongings — sometimes just the clothes on their backs. In fact, the rich were considered sinful by the religious for being vain.
Philosophers and religious figures alike preached about the woes of owning too many things, and valued simple living. However, there came a turn in thought when the rich started to buy more useless, extravagant things. People figured out that they could fund more apprenticeships, businesses and hospitals through the money made by selling to the rich.
The philosophical and religious figures soon began to also advocate for this dynamic since it was a way to fund the community-enriching things religion advocated for in the first place.
Even today, we see rhetoric and theology based on the idea of being blessed if you are wealthy. Money, it seems, has become the stand in for helping people.
In the early 20th century, most clothes were made at home or in workshops. Replacing clothing was viewed as much more expensive than to repair it at a sewing repair shop. Sweatshops may have existed, but they did not have the “fast” element of fast fashion like we have today.
Cheaper clothing and big brand stores became interlocked in its progression to prominence in the 1960s, in the same way dating and cars rose together.
Seeing a demand for trendier clothes young people could afford, many of the big fashion brands we know today got their start. From there, we see the dissipation of USA made clothing to faster and faster fashion.
For example, in the 1970s 75% of clothing were still made in the USA. Today, only 2% of an American citizen’s clothes are made in the USA.
So what is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is the continual flow of clothing made as quickly and cheaply as possible. Fast fashion is all about actively staying on every new trend while also creating new trends to fuel more demand.
I argue fast fashion creates most of the demand for clothing. Take, for instance, that we are buying 20% more than we did in the year 2000. The price of clothing is going down due to the science fast fashion has perfected for cheaply made clothes, but the amount of money we’re spending overall is still going up.
To illustrate how fast fast fashion is, a garment can be designed, produced and find its way on a rack within 3 weeks.
Fast fashion is fast and cheap for many reasons. And they are not pretty.
It exists and thrives at the expense of their workers and our planet. I’ll go into much more detail as to why that is in this blog post.
Why Is Fast Fashion Accepted and the Consequences Ignored?
Let’s be honest, fast fashion is convenient and gratifying. There’s a reason why people refer to “retail therapy” as a legitimate means to cheer themselves up on a bad day. It feels good to buy something nice and new for ourselves. It’s fun to look for sales and feel like you’re getting a good deal.
What’s not fun? Thinking about the actual cost of that cheap shirt.
But it goes beyond this “It feels good to buy things and I don’t want to think about the real price tag” mentality. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about how we’re all trained to be good consumersWe’re Trained to be Good Consumers and soon, how to reject this training.
Not only that, I’m even writing a more thoughtful post about the possible cure for our training- so stay tuned for that.
Until then, read on to part two on why fast fashion is bad: Why is Fast Fashion So Bad?