Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. A second, critical definition adds that fast fashion is not only about quickly moving from runway to store to consumer, but also to the garbage.

As a whole, the fast fashion sector of the fashion industry is polluting the planet at a continuous rate. Due to the amount of pollution and waste caused by the fashion industry, advances in the realm of sustainabilityhave been made possible. For-profit groups, like Viletex, and retailers, such as H&M, are working to decrease the industry’s environmental footprint. Both companies have created programs that encourage recyclingfrom the general public. These programs provide consumers with bins that allow them to dispose of their unwanted garments that will ultimately be transformed into insulation, carpet padding, as well as being used to produce other garments.


While recycling is one way that the fashion industry is striving to change the environment, new technologies in fashion also present great potential in environmental turn around. These technologies offer new methods of using dyes, producing fibers, and reducing the use of natural resources. To decrease the consumption of traditional textiles, Anke Domaske has produced “QMilch,” an eco-milk fiber, Virus has produced high-tech sportswear from recycled coffee beans, and Suzanne Lee has created vegetable leather from fermented tea. Following new fiber types, many companies have created various ways to reduce the amount of dyes emitted into the world’s waterways as well as the level of water consumption. For example, AirDye saves between 7 and 75 gallons of water per pound of textiles produced while digital printing reduces water usage by 95 percent.


While these methods have yet to fully hit the fast fashion sector, they offer alternatives that have the potential to positively influence the industry as a whole. The fast fashion sector thrives on a business model that pushes the environmental boundaries but with the advancements being made, the damage the industry causes can be better addressed. Through the understanding of the multifaceted sides of fashion’s environmental impact, the negative effects can begin to turn around.

The business model of fast fashion is based on consumers’ desire for new clothing to wear. In order to fulfill consumer’s demand, fast fashion brands provide affordable prices and a wide range of clothing that reflects the latest trends. This ends up persuading consumers to buy more items which leads to the issue of overconsumption. Planned obsolescence plays a key role in overconsumption. Based on the study of planned obsolescence in the Economist, Fashion is deeply committed to built-in obsolescence. Last year’s skirts; for example, are designed to be replaced by this year’s new models. In this case, fashion goods are purchased even when the old ones are still wearable. The quick response model and new supply chain practices of fast fashion even accelerate the speed of it. In recent years, the fashion cycle has steadily decreased as fast fashion retailers sell clothing that is expected to be disposed of after being worn only a few times. This dramatically shortens the consumers’ buying cycle. The quick changing stocks and low price of fashion goods encourage consumers to visit the store and make purchases more frequently. As a result, excessive stock and clothes that have gone out of fashion tend to end up in landfills.


A recent article about fast fashion in Huffington Post pointed out that in order to make the fast moving trend affordable, fast-fashion merchandise is typically priced much lower than the competition, operating on a business model of low quality and high volume.[38] Low quality goods make overconsumption more severe since those products have a shorter life span and would need to be replaced much more often. Furthermore, as both industry and consumers continue to embrace fast fashion, the volume of goods to be disposed of or recycled has increased substantially. However, most fast-fashion goods do not have the inherent quality to be considered as collectables for vintage or historic collections. The low quality goods can only end up as waste, hardly to be recycled. These cycles of providing affordable price to trigger the sales, and the low quality comes with it that makes products last shorter are making consumers unconsciously buying more. Not only does it drive sales numbers, but also the amount of waste that comes with it.


Fast fashion brings considerable consumption that prospers the fashion industry. Its unique business model and low prices enables the public to purchase fashionable items even during times of the economic recession. However, it has brought along the problem of overconsumption, whereby countless amounts of waste ends up in landfills. Moreover, hidden costs of landfills also include waste, pollution, energy and natural resources exhaustion.


In contrast to modern overconsumption, fast fashion traces its roots to World War II austerity, where high design was merged with utilitarian materials.