Fast Fashion Everything you Need to Know

In recent years, fast fashion has become a buzzword. Influencers and fashion bloggers are using the term to describe the impact it is having on the planet. The term was first used in the 1990s when Zara opened in New York. At some point in time, we’ve all worn garments produced as a result of fast fashion. That’s because there was little or no awareness. However slowly, people are becoming aware and understanding the tragic impact it is having on the environment and planet as a whole. 

Fast Fashion Definition

The term fast fashion refers to clothing that can be produced quickly without much thought or notice. It is a vertical that focuses on designing and manufacturing high volumes of clothing. The apparel in this category is usually low-priced and is made from low-quality materials (synthetic). However, it is stylish. The purpose of fast-fashion is to meet industry trends quickly and roll out new collections every three weeks. 

From a brand perspective, it might sound nice that they’re rolling out trendy pieces every few weeks. However, the reality is harsh. It is adversely affecting the environment, garment workers and animals. Zara, Forever 21, SHEIN and H&M are a few giants of the fast-fashion industry.


Back in the day, apparel manufacturers only made clothing for winter, spring, summer and fall. Consumers would shop for clothing only when there was an event or occasion. In the 1800s, the first step to making clothes was sourcing all the materials and preparing them. It is after the industrial revolution that things changed completely. Sewing machines were readily available and making clothes became easier, quicker and cheaper. 

In the 1990s, fashion became a form of entertainment. People looked at it as retail therapy. As a result, the discretionary spending on clothing increased. Every consumer expressed a desire to wear clothes that they would see on a fashion runway. After the first H&M and Zara stores opened in Sweden and Spain respectively, fashion became a matter of self-expression. This was the moment when the industry kept getting bigger and bigger to cater to the demands of the people. 

At this point, fast fashion was like a revolution as manufacturers benefited financially and consumers got easy access to clothes. This made clothing more affordable, stylish and imaginative. The sad reality is that the environment started paying the price. Pollution and waste increased due to the usage of low-quality materials and poor manufacturing methods. This further encouraged a consumer throw-away mentality. 

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

There is an ongoing debate whether fast fashion is really bad or not. Honestly speaking, it is a threat to our planet. Most fast fashion clothes are made with harmful chemicals and toxic dyes which end up being released into the environment. Clothes made from polyester and other synthetic materials also release microplastics into the ocean. Further, fast fashion brands are the ones contributing to climate change. 

Did you know? The lesser time it takes to make clothes, the more dangerous the impact is on the environment. Around 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to create textiles such as polyester and nylon. Also, fast fashion demands the use of non-renewable resources which releases large emissions of greenhouse gases into the environment and this requires a large amount of water. Fast-fashion consumers often throw away garments after a few wears. Despite so much awareness, they still want to buy the latest styles at a low price. 

Slow Fashion – The Future

Thankfully, slowly but steadily the narrative is changing. Consumers want to minimise the impact of mass manufactured clothes by doing their part. Gen Z and millennials are concerned about reducing waste and lowering their carbon footprint. For this reason, slow fashion has become immensely popular. As the name implies, slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It is an approach that focuses on mindful manufacturing. It is backed by environmentally friendly processes, fair labour policies and wages, and organic materials. The concept was first introduced in 2008 by fashion and sustainability consultant – Kate Fletcher. Further, the design and production approach focuses on quality over quantity. These days, there are a lot of Indian as well as foreign brands that are advocates of slow fashion. Consumers are doing their bit by shifting to slow fashion, purchasing clothes from brands with high ethical and environmental standards, and by thrifting (purchasing second-hand apparel). Switching to a sustainable mindset can keep the fashion market and planet afloat. 

When students pursue a fashion and apparel design course from Vogue, Bangalore, our key focus is to educate them about different apparel manufacturing techniques, industry-relevant practices and sustainability in fashion. This will help them emerge as socially responsible and mindful fashion entrepreneurs. 

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