Fast-fashion and its approach to over-production, over-marketing, and advertising to consumers, then the rapid disposal practices by companies and consumers is a fashion dead end that needs to change. Writer Jim Dwyer in his January 5, 2010 article A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed exposed H&M‘s practice of tossing “unsellable” merchandise instead of jobbing them or donating them to a charity or a thrift store. Destroying the clothing and accessories further with box cutters and razors so scavengers couldn’t reclaim them and resell them, also creates unnecessary waste and pollution.
From 2010 when Dwyer first reported this story, to 2019 when Elizabeth Segran wrote Your H&M addiction is wreaking havoc on the environment. Here’s how to break it for fast company.com, a few small start-up companies like Cuyana, Ammara, and Senzo Tempo have instituted a new approach to retail that’s dedicated to educating the consumer about conspicuous consumption and how to purchase “less often and more wisely”. Now that so many fast-fashion retailers are experiencing a decline, and these new companies are on the upswing, there are lessons they can pass on that make more sense.
One important lesson is to slow down production and produce less to stem the flow of over-production. Another important lesson is to consider it from the design point-of-view and find creative ways to analyze and interpret prevailing trends, and if there is a case of “unsellable” goods, a solution would be to “re-purpose” or “up-cycle” them into “sellable” ones.
Finally, if Stella McCartney could use “old stock fabrics to create rare, limited pieces for her Spring 2021 collection” so can H&M and other retailers and designers.
Before Christian Dior revolutionized women’s fashion, in 1947, he had one goal to replace the unsightly Zazou trend with his New Look. Forever 21, H & M, Uniqlo, Target and Zara hope to equally influential with low-cost goods for the budget-mined with big style dreams. Organizers as a fast fashion retail model their purpose is to fill stores with quickly manufactured merchandise based on catwalk and red carpet trends. What that means is that the moment it’s online it’s available soon after. Sadly, any concept this perfect, is bound to have major flaws too.
Pollution, and Other Problems
Naysayers from the environmental and educational fields have been their biggest detractors lately citing pollution, over-consumption and poor quality as the top issues. To quiet the dissenting voices the fast fashion retailers have taken steps to repair their image.
Budget Shopping is the In Thing
Rebellious, but fabulous, the younger generation of the 1960’s helped propel fast fashion and its instant availability. Another bonus was hipsters could be “in” for little money, allowing them to obtain different from their parents, without having to get their permission. The “it’s chic to pay less” fast fashion sentiment permeated popular culture from the “late 1990’s to the early 2000’s” ushering in an eclectic shopping style. Sharon Stone’s ingenious pairing of a “Gap turtleneck tee with a black Valentino gown” at the 1996 Oscar’s is an accurate example of this philosophy. In 2017, it might be demonstrated with a print coat from a thrift store over a maxi dress from Forever 21.
Qualitative Lifewear from Uniqlo
Concern over their target customer’s inability to recognize “quality” caused Uniqlo to rename their merchandise lifewear, and insist it uplifts instead of detracts. The collaboration they did with J.W. Anderson for a classic British-style capsule demonstrated this mindset perfectly. Target in a similar mode also upgraded its women’s wear with it’s A New Day line, adding another chapter to fast-fashion’s history.
Wong, Grace. “Fast fashion shopping: It’s cute, it’s cheap, but should you really buy it?” (Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2015, http://www.chicagotribune.com)