Fast Fashion isn't Cheap - Abbie James

Fast Fashion isn't Cheap

Fast Fashion isn't Cheap

We all love a bargain. Even though I'm someone who chooses quality over quantity, I still won't say no to a discount if it is offered. But we can all see that things are now getting a little ridiculous in the fashion industry these days with the myriad options of cheap clothing. And if you can't guess, I’m referring to fast fashion. 

The True Cost of Fast Fashion

As a seasoned designer, I've witnessed first hand the intricate dynamics at play within garment production. I’ve designed overseas and I’ve designed locally in my hometown of Melbourne, so I have a good handle on how much it costs to manufacture a garment. And the cheap cost of fast fashion leaves me puzzled. 

Consider the humble cotton tee. Its creation involves a chain of events, from the cultivation of raw materials by diligent farmers to the skilled craftsmanship of factory workers. However, amidst this process lies a stark reality, many of those involved are subjected to exploitative working conditions and inadequate compensation, thanks to fast fashion.

"Only 2% of people who make our clothes earn a living wage."

Only 2% of the people who make our clothes earn a living wage. Garment workers earn 45.8% less than what they need to live off when they are paid the minimum wage. Recent reports of cotton farmer suicides in India and widespread garment worker exploitation underscore the harsh realities of the fast fashion industry. These are not isolated incidents but symptomatic of a systemic issue perpetuated by our demand for cheap, disposable fast fashion clothing. You can see something needs to change.

Manequins in a fast fashion store .

Who is picking up the cost?

So, what is this telling us? The same amount of effort goes into making our clothes as it did 50 years ago. We still need the farmers to grown the cotton to make the yarn, we still need the fabric and dying mills, the designers, pattern makers and sewers. The only thing that has changed apart from modernised machinery is that the people who are making it are paid less and the people who are buying it are paying less. 

What we can gather from this is that the workers who are making our clothes are paying the price for us to have the privilege of buying cheap underpriced clothing. We can see from the statistics that the minimum wage is not the living wage. The cost of fast fashion is not the correct cost of fashion, it's an illusion, a lie and an exploitation of people's livelihoods. 

the solution

We do have the power to change the situation. The fashion industry is changing, but slowly. Yes, the fast fashion industry has a responsibility to right its wrongs and clean up its act.  But the solution can also lie in conscientious consumer choices at well. Fast fashion brands are in it for the money, it's a business, as it is with all brands to some extent. 

We have seen the myriad attempts at greenwashing from fast fashion chains, remember H&M's Conscious collection anyone? Fast fashion listens with its dollar. If we stop spending our money on fast fashion, they cannot ignore this. You vote with your dollar and every time you choose to spend your money on a business you are condoning that business's practices. The question we, as a consumer, need to ask is "Who do we want to support?"

By advocating for transparency and supporting brands committed to ethical practices, we can catalyze meaningful change within the industry. It's a redefining of our approach to fashion, not as passive consumers, but as informed advocates for social responsibility. Together, we possess the agency to reshape industry norms and champion a more equitable and sustainable future but we need to change our shopping habits to do so. In saying this I am not blaming our shopping habits for causing fast fashion and its negative impact, but I am saying we can be a part of the solution, and that is an empowering place to be.