At Fame and Partners, we seek to alter the ways in which we interact with the fashion industry. Through our made-to-wear approach, we seek to create a shift in consumerism that acknowledges and respects the planet we call home. However, a call for radical, sustainable change calls for a dimensional understanding of the current state of the industry.
Fast fashion and its relentless cycle of production, distribution and waste accounts for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions. In recent years, retailers have graduated beyond the once-traditional four-season cycle and into a superfluous 52 micro-season cycle. Trendy clothing reigns supreme today, but as quickly as it’s popularized, the next trend leers on the horizon.
Though it may seem harmless to switch up your wardrobe every few weeks or months, fast fashion has environmental, social and economic impacts too consequential to be ignored. So, what do you do? How can you strike the fine balance between buying pieces you love and maintaining a green carbon footprint? To make informed and sustainable decisions, a view into the bigger picture can steer you in the right direction. Let’s dive in.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is a clothing design, manufacturing and branding model which prioritizes high volume, rapid production. In short, fast fashion brands aim to produce the highest volume of clothing in as little time as possible. Due to the rapid manufacturing speeds and a focus on mass sales, fast fashion brands tend to focus on quickly replicating trends rather than introducing unique or highly conceptualized designs.
Fast fashion items can go from concept to shelf in as little as four weeks and often involve several countries in their production. While this process is fast and usually leads to lower-cost clothing, mass production leads to a significant level of consumption and waste.
For example, a shirt that you see in a Los Angeles fast fashion chain could be designed in the United States, made in Bangladesh and packaged in China. Fast fashion is all about rapid production times, complex supply chains; and mass production. Sometimes retailers hit the nail on the head and produce just the right amount of one item, but other times, they are left with significant inventory that often ends up on sale racks before having to be disposed of.
Fast fashion brands float in a constant state of guessing what demand will be since they produce large batches of one item without knowing how well it will actually sell. While a benefit of fast fashion is quick production time, the con lies in the large amounts of waste and surplus that this model creates.
The Effects of Fast Fashion
Like most things, fast fashion has its pros and cons. On the upside, fast fashion brands tend to be more cost-effective than bespoke or couture clothing suppliers. When clothing is mass-produced, each item comes at a lower price-point — most typically because production is housed in countries with cheap labor.
On the contrary, fast fashion brands aim to transform you into a returning customer. This means that fast fashion items are not designed to last forever, they are actually made to be worn for a season or two. Now, this isn’t to say that fast fashion can’t withstand the test of time, it just means that from a profit perspective, fast fashion brands have an incentive to create clothes that drive people back into their stores quickly.
What Fast Fashion Impacts
Unfortunately, for the benefits that they have, fast fashion impacts are significant. The global environmental, social, economic impacts of fast fashion are increasing rapidly.
Production equals carbon emissions — it’s that simple. If carbon emissions, or greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide sound familiar, it’s because these are the gasses that fuel climate change.
Today, fashion production accounts for an astounding 10% of global carbon emissions. That’s as much greenhouse gas as the entire European Union. Outside of carbon emissions, fast fashion dying and washing practices release non-degradable microfibers into the world’s oceans, rivers and streams that wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems.
In short, fast fashion is bad for water quality and supply. One cotton shirt requires 2,700 liters of water to produce, enough water to keep one person hydrated for 2.5 years. When you look at waste, over 10,000 articles of clothing go to landfills every five minutes. Fast fashion may look good and cost less, but the environmental impact is staggering.
We have been focusing on the negative impacts of fast fashion, but there are positive impacts that come along with this model of production. For many countries in the Global South, like Bangladesh and Indonesia, fast fashion has provided opportunities for economic growth. As major brands establish factories in these countries, more opportunities for economic and social development arrive.
Unfortunately, labor laws in these countries tend to be more lax, and labor conditions inside of fast fashion factories hinge on the line of unethical. While the profits and development are good for governments, they tend to fuel the exploitation of the people who are actually making and producing these garments.
This is where things get a bit more positive. Economically, fast fashion has actually been a force for good. In countries that have traditionally struggled with poverty and a lack of industry or foreign investment, fast fashion has brought opportunities that have created a growing middle class in countries like India and China.
As countries that have traditionally been excluded from consumership gain more wealth, demand for clothes is expected to rise even more. In simple terms, fast fashion presents potential to bring countries out of poverty and create new, needed pathways for people to build generational shifts in income-related opportunities like education and other social services. If the industry could address the severe fast fashion environmental, social and economic impacts, there may be potential for fast fashion to be an extreme force of good.
How is Fame and Partners Different?
Fame and Partners stands as a passionate player in the slow fashion movement. Slow fashion is designed intentionally with longer periods between initial concept and final production. Fame and Partners operates on a made-to-order model, meaning we produce each dress, skirt and top that we make as orders come in.
By crafting everything to order, we eliminate the need for excess stock and inventory — and the warehouses that they are stored in — and avoid the waste that accompanies mass production. Our clothes are designed with care and intention. We don’t prioritize speed in getting designs from sketchpad to production, we focus more on the small details that make a dress stand out, on the individual pleating and lines that turn a jumpsuit from basic to brilliant. We may not do things as fast as your average retail brand, but our clothes are high quality, customisable and produced using sustainable methods that maintain the dignity and rights of all involved in the production process.
Like all things in life, sometimes our customers order something that they think they will love, and things just don’t work out. When we designed our operating model, we calculated returns into the picture. All returned items go straight to the Fame and Partners outlet where they are no longer customisable, but are still new (we require all returns to be unworn) and ready for a new home.
Above all else, we believe in the power of choice. Just like we believe that our customers deserve to choose the finishing touches that make their clothes unique, we also hold true that people should shop where they want, how they want and when they want without judgment. We put a lot of stock into informed shopping. When you purchase a dress or jumpsuit, we want you to know how that garment impacts the world, where it came from and the ethos behind it.