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It is not certain when people first started wearing clothes, however, anthropologists estimate that it was somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 years ago. The first clothes were made from natural elements: animal skin, fur, grass, leaves, bone, and shells. Garments were often draped or tied; however, simple needles made out of animal bone provide evidence of sewn leather and fur garments from at least 30,000 years ago, now you can imagine how long this took.


Fast-forward to today, and waiting any amount of time for a single piece of clothing seems ridiculous. Advancements in the supply chain between the manufacturing of clothes to the time we purchase them has definitely increased since the old ages. Now, with the click of a button you can have clothes on their way to you, receiving them sometimes as quick as the same day. This improvement, amongst other things, is responsible for the rise of fast fashion, which has had a tremendous impact on the way we value, buy and discard our clothes, resulting in negative knock-on effects both socially and environmentally.


What is Fast Fashion?


Fast fashion refers to brands that produce high volumes of clothing throughout the year. Instead of launching new styles twice a year in the traditional spring/summer and winter/fall seasons, fast fashion companies have 52 micro-seasons. This gives consumers ongoing access to new, on-trend clothing at an affordable price. Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at rapid speeds to meet consumer demands. The idea is to get the newest styles on the market as quickly as possible, so shoppers can snap them up while they are still at the height of their popularity and then, sadly, discard them after a few wears. It forms a key part of the toxic system of overproduction and consumption, making fashion one of the world’s largest polluters. The average person only wears clothes an average of seven times before throwing them away.

Since we pay less money for our clothes, we also value them less. It’s normal to wear something only a handful of times before discarding it. We’re less attached to the clothes we buy because new clothes are cheaper than ever before, and we can buy them online with the click of a button.

There’s also more demand to keep our wardrobes fresh. Social media shows us what others are wearing, which amplifies the pressure to maintain a certain look. Appearing in the latest styles online boosts self-esteem and establishes a sense of belonging. If you can have brand new clothes at your fingertips each season, why wouldn’t you?


How do you spot a fast fashion brand?

Fast fashion’s damage presents a sobering reality on the challenges it causes for our planet and the people in it. However,  increasing interest in both transparent supply chains and ethical consumerism has boosted the demand for more sustainable fashion. A 2020 report shows that nearly 50% of 18-24 year olds were very supportive of sustainable fashion (compared to 30% of 35-44 year olds).

Where some brands are using this as motivation to do better when it comes down to being more sustainable, lots of brands are using this as a marketing technique, without following through with any of its promises. It’s hard to know when fashion brands are telling the truth about thei sustainable and ethical practices (especially since there’s still a significant lack of transparency throughout the supply chain), and when it’s purely greenwashing. .

Some key factors in fast fashion brands to look out for:

Thousands of styles, all touching on the latest trends
Short turnaround times between a trend or garment being seen on social media or a catwalk before it hits the shelves.
Offshore manufacturing where labour is the cheapest, with the workers being placed on low wages.
Inadequate rights and safety when it comes to factories. (Fast fashion brands are really clever when it comes to being less transparent about where their clothes are made and the conditions they are made in. It’s important to do your research!)
Low stock in particular garments - This is to create urgency for the product as it might not be available within days.
Cheap, low quality materials. One of the reasons fast fashion brands are so cheap is that they use cheap materials, designed to only last minimal wears.
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