The Business of Fast Fashion

It’s the end-of-season sale once again and at Glorietta last weekend, I saw lots of clothing shops on sale frenzy (again!), giving discounts to as big as 70%.  These shops already gave huge discounts in their last summer sale, and here they are at it again.


I wonder at how these merchants earn profit.  What’s the mark-up then when they can slash prices off to as much as 70%?  And why dispose of these clothes so quickly?

Thankfully, I am not a fan of fashion clothes.  As you have probably seen in the few pics I have of myself in this blog, I repeat my staple clothes of collared shirt/polo and jeans.  I have not posted a picture of me wearing fashion clothes from H&M, Zara, Mango, Mango, Topshop and the like, precisely because I haven’t really bought fashionable clothing from these shops.

Why is that?  Hmmm.  I think it’s because I used to be fat when I was a teenager (really fat that I could fit in my dad’s pants) and this made me overly conscious of my unflattering figure (and stretch marks).  I hid them by wearing jeans, long-sleeved polo and loose polo shirts.  These became my ‘uniform’ even after I have lost weight.

The few times I tried to blend in and wore what’s fashionable, I ended up with wasted money because I move around very fast and my clothes became prone to rips and hard-to-remove stains.  I also realized that it’s not my thing to dress up in clothes I would wear only once or twice.  That, and my lack of fashion sense, kept me away from these clothing labels that promote fast fashion.

Instead, I invested in clothes (and quality brands) I love and suited me well: Lacoste shirts, Giordano and Bench denim jeans and Columbia outdoor wear.  A good chunk of my clothes have been with me for more than a decade now, and they all still look good.  Never mind if they make me look baduy and in dire need of a make-over; I care more about my comfort than appearing fashionable.

Recently, I saw this docu-movie about fast fashion, which is a term used to describe cheap and affordable clothes which are the result of catwalk designs moving into stores in the fastest possible way in order to respond to the latest trends (source).

Here’s the official trailer of the docu-movie, The True Cost:

I had mixed feelings of sadness, anger and despair after watching the movie.  While fast fashion is good because it made runway clothing affordable, brought in millions of dollars in profit and created countless jobs abroad, the bad side of it far outweigh its good points: exploited cheap labor in labor-dependent countries like Bangladesh and India, the unsafe and unregulated working conditions in these countries, the clothing industry’s harmful impact to the environment (wasted clothing pollutes ground and water) and the irreversible health damage of those exposed to chemicals used in genetically-modified cotton, among others.

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The Rana Plaza factory collapse happened in 2013, and at first the international response was encouraging: it created awareness of the issues surrounding the clothing industry, and there were demands for retail giants to make ‘ethical fashion’ a part of their social responsibility.  However, almost 2 years after the incident, over-consumption still persists, and I think there are no concrete reforms yet for the factories in Bangladesh.

Does this mean that we should boycott these retail giants H&M, Forever 21, Mango and Zara because of the way they’re portrayed in the video clips above?  I do not think so.  There will always be consumers who will patronize fast fashion because it’s really cheaper than big branded clothes.  But we can do our share by becoming responsible consumers.  Thus, we need to change our mindset of ‘wanting all’ to ‘having less’.  By buying quality clothes that will give us more mileage, we are avoiding wastage in our closet and most of all, we save money in the long run.

It would help greatly too if designers and manufacturers alike adopt this philosophy of Philippe Starck:


That’s it:  Own fewer, but better things.

Read up on the following and be educated about sustainable and ethical fashion:

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