Statement sleeves, mid length skirts and ruffles are all set to be massive trends this summer; sound familiar? That’s because it is; more and more ‘trends’ are defying the odds and breaking away from the usual commandments of the fashion industry, lasting beyond their proposed shelf lives and evading to fall victim of the ‘fast fashion’ epidemic. Unwritten rules would have you believe that wearing last season’s garments is a total faux pas; it seems the tide is turning on this motion, as the manifesto of fashion shifts to see more conscientious habits from shoppers. Consumers appear to be switching away from disposable fast fashion trends, favouring to spend money on investment, season-less pieces. Quality over quantity.
In keeping with this movement, news hit this January that fast fashion chain, H&M, the second biggest fashion retailer (after Inditex), is to close some of its 7000 global stores, after suffering its biggest drop in sales in 10 years; a reduction in sales echoed by many other high street retailers. In a desperate bid to change the direction, some retailers are regularly offering large discounts and sales with some even questionably introducing credit options to young customers in order to boost growth. However, with a reduction in throwaway culture, many stores are still struggling, turning to online sales to stay afloat. High street chain, New Look recently announced it is to axe sixty of its UKs stores to concentrate on the booming online e-commerce market.
With the hidden truths of the fast fashion industry reported widely, it is no surprise to see people turning their backs on this trade. News stories detailing tragedies at clothes production warehouses have prompted people to think more carefully about their clothing. Gen - Z are the highest proportion of people that are targeted by fast fashion advertisement; it is these people who are taking an increased interest and awareness in the human rights issues and environmental harm generated by the fast fashion industry.
Before fast fashion was what it is today, the trends showcased at fashion week would be available the following year on the high street. Nowadays as soon as a catwalk finishes, a catalyse is sparked, whereby, high street chains such as Zara and Topshop are able to obtain similar styles via the lowest bidding production factory, who can offer the quickest turn around. New styles drop every 2 weeks for some of the biggest retailers, meaning the consumer can have copies of the catwalk trends almost instantaneously. This puts undue pressure on the production factories and workers, (usually in countries such as Bangladesh and China) leading to unsafe working conditions. Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, killed over 1100 workers, Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh the year before; factory owners are putting demands ahead of safety. As most of the production happens overseas, there is limited to no legislation in place to protect these workers. With up to 75 million people employed in foreign countries to make these garments, the roots in which the fast fashion industry stems from are unethical; back in the 1990s boycotts were called against Nike and Gap for using ‘sweatshop workers’ who are paid very little and put their lives in danger each day working in hazardous conditions.
Consumers are often looking for a low price as opposed to durability leading to the shorter shelf life of the garment. Nylon, acrylic and polyester are the main fabrics used for fast fashion garments; these are also the fabrics with some of the most robust fabrics in terms of biodegradability. Devastating for the environment, the fast fashion industry sees thousands of tons of unwanted clothes thrown into landfills each year; putting clothing fourth (after housing, transport and food) in terms of its impact on the environment and carbon emissions, according to research from the government’s waste advisory body Wrap (The Guardian Newspaper).
The days of repairing a button, resoling a shoe and stitching a torn seam lead are long gone, however a lot of designers are responding to this downtrend of fast fashion, rather than starting a new collection from scratch each season, they are building on the successful foundations of the last collection; giving way for lasting trends such as the statement sleeves and ruffles. This in conjunction with people taking a more human-centered approach to fashion choices can hopefully see some of the unethical aspects of the fashion industry gradually eradicated.
Words / JOANNE M KENNEDY
Image credits / PIBE Magazine