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Design, Duplication, Delivery: The Fast Fashion Lifecycle

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Maria has been working as a designer in a fashion company for almost two decades. She used to have around five weeks to finalize clothing designs before sending them to the pattern maker. However, now she has to speed up her work so she can produce new designs every single week. Maria’s story is hypothetical but what she experiences does happen in every “Fast Fashion” industry.

Probably you’ve heard the buzzword Fast Fashion, it refers to a highly efficient and quick cycle of garment manufacturing and consumption. Fast fashion is commonly identified with garment industries that support trend replication and the use of low-quality materials (like synthetic fabrics) to bring cheap clothing to consumers. This phenomenon not only has transformed the fashion business but also significantly affecting the way we shop, dress, and perceive clothing.

Before the 1800s, fashion style was associated with financial status; since each individual had to source materials like wool or leather, prepare them, weave them, and then make the clothes, which took a lot of time. As sewing machines were invented, clothes became easier, quicker, and cheaper to make and middle-class societies started to enjoy fashion. The development of industries that produced cheaper clothes in the nineteenth century was paving the way for the emergence of the fast fashion industries that we know today.

The term fast fashion was first used by the New York Times report about the opening of Zara’s first store in New York in 1989. The newspaper used Fast Fashion to highlight the ability of this company to bring new clothing designs to the store every 15 days. Since then, fast fashion has provided younger consumers with the opportunity to follow fashion trends without having to empty their wallets. The fast fashion industries continue to grow, taking advantage of the instant gratification mindset where most MZ customers are much less willing to wait for several months to own the latest high-rise jeans.

Fast fashions are made only to be worn a few times before ending up in a landfill

Fast fashion industries are expected to continue to expand at an annual rate of 3.13% during 2023-2208. The growth prediction is of course not merely a guess. Fast fashion brands have skillfully used social media and influencers to create brand awareness among their target customers and drive interest among followers, translating into increased sales. Fashion industries, whether it’s conventional or fast, have three main phases in their business process, i.e., design, produce, and distribute. Fast fashion brands commonly follow trends in social media to generate ideas for new styles. The designers then design the styles and proceed it to the pattern maker who will make the prototype. As the designs are fixed, the company orders manufacturers to duplicate those designs into thousands of products. While the clothes are manufactured, the company orders the delivery company to be ready to make shipment as soon as the garments are finished.  In the conventional cycle, it used to take over a year from design to sales phase whereas in fast fashion the whole cycle is compressed down to only a week for each phase.

The difference in production speed between conventional and fast fashion industries is mind-blowing

Fast Fashion arrives in our closet not only at a neck-breaking speed but also with hidden costs paid by communities and ecosystems worldwide. There is a complex web of social and environmental consequences concealed behind the attractive dress that was made only to be worn a few times. This is an urgent agenda for the world to acknowledge the impact of Fast Fashion; or the dark side of fast fashion.

Stay tuned for our next articles to learn more about the impact of fast fashion and what can we do about it.

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