If fast fashion from the likes of Shop Cider and Shein were a drug, consumers would be the addicts, and influencers, the dealers
This is the dark side of fashion no one wants to talk about.
The term “fast fashion” has been circulating the internet over the past few years, as well as information regarding environmental concerns, algorithms and influencer culture; yet despite this and a global pandemic, fast fashion is still at the top of its game. But before we get deep into the nitty-gritty details of today’s tragic normalcy of low-priced, mass-produced clothing, let’s begin with the basics: what is fast fashion? Well, it’s exactly what it seems. It’s a quick production of large quantities of garments, delivered directly to consumers, only to be worn a couple of times and thrown away. But that’s not the worst part. In comes ultra-fast fashion, also known as fast fashion’s more aggressive, sister.
So, what’s the difference? To put it simply, if fast fashion is produced in weeks, then ultra-fast fashion happens within days. Designs are copied straight from the runway and are translated into cheaper synthetic materials, only to be placed in virgin plastic bags that are disposable but not biodegradable.
With the help of technology, brands such as Shein, Fashion Nova and Shop Cider have quick access to consumers without physical stores. With new trends after every scroll, consumers can get their hands on the latest styles at any given moment.
Influencer Culture and Conformity
The big indicator that a brand is a part of the ultra-fast fashion market is if it’s solely operated through e-commerce; and who are the internet pioneers? Influencers, of course.
Social media influencers are winning the battle over media, conquering the digital ground before Hollywood celebrities. The presumed “relatable” content creators only have one job: to persuade their users to purchase products and services. And they do their job very well. Unlike advertisers, social media influencers have the stamp of authenticity attached to their “they’re just like us” persona. Influencer culture has convinced viewers that their opinion is trustworthy, and that the products they advertise are exactly what you need to be a part of the newest trends.
Let’s be honest, most influencers are probably unaware of fast fashion’s background, and so are their consumers. Hence why this unhealthy cycle of consumerism is never-ending. With constant clothing hauls, people are convinced that they need to participate in the latest styles to feel included in today’s cookie-cutter society. Maybe it’s because we’re adaptive creatures, but somehow fear always brainwashes us to conform to feel accepted.
For fashion students and enthusiasts, it’s a no-brainer to stray away from the conditioning of buyer habits driven by social media. But for the average consumer that has not yet found their way amongst the sea of trends that pop up every second, it’s a cheap way to experiment and fit in.
Algorithms and Addictions
Ever click on something and suddenly similar ads pop up left and right on your computer screen? That’s because these fast fashion brands harness consumer data to make sure they’re on top of the next big thing—and how fast they’ll be able to sell them.
We won’t get into the black hole of algorithm theories and whether the FBI is tracking your every move, but, ultimately, algorithms are built to retain customers and hopefully gain their loyalty. Jokes aside, ultra-fast fashion (much like other brands) takes advantage of algorithms to study our buying habits until we become predictable enough for them to have the upper hand.
Now that you’re probably freaking out over what you’ve just read, know that there are ways to break the habit of shopping for fast-fashion items.
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This may be a long shot, but universities with fashion departments usually have swap meets where you can fall in love with other people’s pre-loved items and trade in your own. No payments, just swap. It’s a great way to meet like-minded fashion besties and snag the best clothes. If there are no fashion schools near you, there are upcoming communities that host events for swap meets. Finding one in your local area could be your next sartorial adventure!
The other option (and everyone’s favorite) is thrift shopping. With retro trends making a big comeback, why not buy the real thing? It’ll last longer than the synthetic item, which would most likely fall apart after a few washes.
If thrifting isn’t really up to your liking, try shopping in your mom’s closet! Knowing our Filipino moms, they most likely have kept their clothes over the years. It’s worth looking at to recreate cool fits or have them repaired to fit you!
Lastly, be a conscious shopper. Shop for pieces you know are versatile and that you’d wear again. There’s no shame in being an outfit repeater!
Words Marga Sibug
Header Photos Shop Cider and Shein
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver