Hot Take: The “f-word” in the fashion industry has some redeeming qualities.
Written by: Tyler Tassi
What comes to mind when you hear the word “fast fashion”? No doubt, it has something to do with stores like Shein or Princess Polly, deplorable working conditions, trendy clothing items being sold for less than $10 or cheap quality clothes that are to be worn one month and thrown away the next.
However, this article is not about the negative impacts of fast fashion. It is a well-known fact that fast fashion has devastating effects on the environment and the fashion industry as a whole. That is not being disputed. That topic has been written about enough already. This article is not in defense of the concept of fast fashion or the damage that it has caused. It is in defense of the consumer of fast fashion because the problem is not in the buying of fast fashion, but in the way it is being bought and portrayed to the modern shopper.
Before I get into how to buy clothing from fast fashion companies in a responsible way, let’s get into the reasons why some consumers buy clothing from fast fashion. For starters, many fast fashion clothing brands are more size inclusive than many slow fashion or more expensive brands. Most slow fashion brand’s sizing goes from a size S to XL, or XS if I’m lucky. This largely excludes a wide array of consumers, some who need larger sizes than XL or some who need smaller than XS. Fast fashion brands like Shein go up to 4XL in pants, while Uniqlo, a fast fashion brand from Japan, has trousers that start from size XXS and up. Because these brands are able to hold such a wide variety of inventory, they are able to be more size and shape inclusive.
Speaking from personal experience, as someone who just barely reaches five foot, ASOS’ petite section is a godsend. Being that ASOS is such a large brand, they are able to carry a petite section filled with clothes for a petite person my age, not “petite” clothing that looks like something a middle schooler will wear, which is rare for the fashion industry. Not many brands carry petite, curvy or tall sizes, so when I find a brand that carries the holy grail petite sizes that I can wear without having to spend the money to get altered first, I will buy from them. Until many “slow” or more expensive fashion brands expand or even simply create clothing for petite, curvy or tall women, I will still shop at fast fashion brands.
Another reason that consumers buy from fast fashion brands is price. Simply put, the prices of many slow, expensive clothing brands are out of the price range for a lot of people. The argument that gets thrown around often in the takedown of fast fashion is that people should be willing to pay more for quality pieces that will last longer than cheaply made and sold clothing, Buying clothes of a higher quality of course means that one can enjoy and wear these pieces for longer, which is a good thing. However, this is simply not a reality for everyone and this argument being presented as a “simple solution” for consumers is ignorant. Not everyone can afford to pay over $100 for a winter coat. For many people in this country and especially around the globe, fast fashion clothing is the only way that they can clothe their bodies and the bodies of their loved ones, especially children. For some people, there is no other option. It is better to buy a less expensive coat, treat it well and take care of it, thus leading to one being able to wear it longer, than to break the bank buying a piece of clothing they cannot afford. Let’s stop shaming others for buying clothes that may be the only ones they can afford.
This leads me to what IS the problem when it comes to the purchasing of fast fashion clothing— the messaging and attitudes that consumers have toward purchasing the products and the lifecycle of the garment, all being fed to consumers by fast fashion brands. This is done through the selling of trendy clothing at dirt cheap prices. We have all seen it before, the $1,000 Shein challenge on TikTok, and we have all fallen into the temptation of buying trendy clothes for $6 because “if I don’t like it or it falls apart, it was only $6.” Trust me, I have been there, too. The issue here lies in the attitude that consumers have toward the clothes and their reasons to buy them. Many consumers buy the clothes with the intention of wearing the items for a season and then never again. This is why fast fashion clothing so often ends up in landfills. If consumers change their attitude toward buying fast fashion clothing and decide to simply buy items that they genuinely like and want to take care of for years to come, this would be a step in the right direction to combat overconsumption and wastefulness.
This also leads me to the giant fast fashion hauls that are all over social media. I’ll keep this one simple for you— there is simply no reason why someone needs to buy $1,000 worth of clothing from fast fashion brands just because they can or view it as a “challenge.” That is not a challenge, that is overconsumption and it is unnecessary. One is not shopping for quality or even pieces that they love, they are just shopping for quantity. If someone has the spare money to spend $1,000 on clothes, they have the money to spend it on more expensive, quality pieces.
Although we as consumers should always encourage brands, with the power of our dollar, to produce and sell clothes in the most ethical manner, the fashion industry has not yet come around. Until then, consumers should take better care to stop and think “will I take care of this after I buy it? How long do I realistically see myself wearing this item? Is this something I am just buying because it is trendy right this second?” When consumers stop to really think about their purchases and take care of the clothing they do buy, fast fashion clothing can last a long time and not lead to overconsumption. If someone can afford to buy from “slow” or more expensive fashion brands, then by all means go for it.If someone cannot and fast fashion clothing is all they can afford, there should be no judgment toward that. It is all about being intentional about one’s clothing purchases, whether those purchases come from Forever 21 or Chanel.