The rise of fast fashion – the practice of rapidly translating high fashion design trends into low-priced garments and accessories by mass-market retailers at low costs – over the past decade, in particular, has transformed the entire fashion industry. From traditional mall retailers that are struggling to remain afloat due the price-setting practices and all-around market domination of the likes of Zara, H&M, Mango, Uniqlo, and co., to high fashion brands that are no longer – in 2017 – exempt from sharing high-meets-low wardrobe-wielding consumers with these mass market giants, all sects of the industry have been touched by the impact of fast fashion.
This year, alone, has been a noteworthy one for some of the world’s most name-checked fast fashion brands. Here are some of the developments …
1. Women Should Not Have to Choose Between Employment and Safety: In Garment Factories They Do. The garment manufacturing and textile industries in much of Southeast Asia – the site of many of the world’s manufacturing capitals – lacks well-established legal protections and standards that weigh in favor of fairness and transparency both for laborers and the environment, alike. The existence of such informal labor sectors, coupled with the gender-specific vulnerabilities that garment factory owners and operators prey upon, make it so that women are provided with employment opportunities, but not without falling victim to an array of abuses.
2. Nike, Puma, VF Corp. Hit with Reports of Mass Faintings, Sweatshop Conditions. Female workers in Cambodia have suffered mass faintings due to excessive hours worked in stifling conditions in factories that supply garments and accessories to sportswear brands including Nike, Puma, VF Corporation, and Asics. According to reports from The Observer and Danish investigative media site, Danwatch, more than 500 laborers in four factories have been hospitalized over the past year due to sweatshop conditions.
3. H&M Accused of Destroying 60 Tons of Recyclable Garments in Danish TV Investigation. KARA/NOVEREN – a waste disposal company in Denmark – has incinerated over 60 tons of new, unworn apparel from H&M since 2013. These hundreds of thousands of garments consist of reusable/recyclable materials.
4. Will Zara's Latest Supply Chain Crisis Actually Cause Lasting Damage? As Fast Co. stated, “By failing to respond swiftly to factory workers who haven’t been compensated, Zara is doing serious damage to its brand.” But is the revelation that Zara has not acted ethically in terms of the manufacturing of its products really doing significant damage to its brand? There is a strong argument that the answer is "no."
5. Fast Fashion Brands Go to Great Lengths to Emulate High Fashion Ones. In line with the notion that fashion is far more about the brands than the individual garments and accessories, themselves, these days, it makes a lot of sense that fast fashion retailers have taken to copying more than just runway looks and are bringing in larger brand elements, as well. Consider Spanish fast fashion brand, Zara. In addition to consistent attempts to recreate Céline garments for a tiny fraction of the price, it is hardly a coincidence that an array of its ad campaigns mirror the look and feel of Céline campaigns, right down to the models.
6. Cheap Fashion Still in Demand as Primark, Uniqlo Sales Rise & Forever 21 Seeks Expansion. Despite widespread campaigns aimed at educating consumers about the harms associated with the practice of fast fashion - both in terms of sustainability and human rights - the intense demand for trendy, cheap clothing is not waning.
7. Forced Labor, Child Labor Still Heavily Tied to Uzbek Cotton and Fast Fashion. Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen’s award-winning label, The Row, sources its cotton from South Carolina. This is a relative rarity – even in the world of high fashion. In fact, most fashion brands – in attempts to offer affordable prices – look abroad for cotton, and the conditions in many of the far-flung locations where cotton is harvested are anything but pretty.
8. Bangladesh Government, Factory Owners Shun Growing Concerns Over Apparel Sector. The Awami League party (one of the two major political parties of Bangladesh), along with garment industry employers, have intensified their crackdown on apparel workers following mass walkouts over wages and working conditions in December.
9. Forget What You've Read, Fast Fashion is Not Dead. The fast fashion concept is backed by two such fundamentally good ideas that it seems only natural that it would be the shape of things to come in retail. A product of its times, fast fashion taps into its millennial core audience’s two favorite things: frequent novelty and affordability, allowing it to wreak havoc on the traditional model of mass market retailing.
10. LOÉIL: The Brand That Makes Zara Look Original. Known largely for its CÉLINE, Chloe, Chanel, The Row, Rosie Assoulin, and Jacquemus copies – just to name a few of the brands regularly targeted – LOÉIL is taking on “it” brand, Balenciaga. And this certainly is not an isolated incident.
11. The Evolution of Fast Fashion: Just as Fast but Not Quite as Cheap. It was not that long ago that you could walk into the stores of fast fashion retailers, such as Forever 21, Topshop or Zara, and put together an entire look for under $100. That is not necessarily the case anymore. Long known for their $20 trousers and dresses, many of which are “inspired by” (read: copied from) high fashion runway looks, these fast fashion retailers have been upping their prices and adding more expensively priced goods to their shelves – both online and in their brick and mortar stores.