The Impact of Ethical Concerns on Fashion Consumerism
Consumerism is the promotion of the consumer’s interests. As we have developed into a consumer-based society, we have come to the age of “fast fashion”. Fast fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. We get trapped in this consumerism cycle, which begins with seeing ads, buying the clothes or products advertised, and working to be able to afford those products. This goes on, in an effort to satisfy our desire to fit into the norms that society has set. In this paper,  I will explain how fast fashion is changing consumerism, how the use of social media and social networking creates immediate access to the real time fashion market, and conclude with the negative impact of cheap fast fashion on the global environment.
Consumerism and consumption play a huge role on what fashion is today and what goes into it, and not just about design or designers, but also socially and environmentally. The word fast fashion does not mean it’s bad for the environment. The more affordable fast fashion clothing companies is what is bad for the global environment.  
Consumerism and consumption impact the social and environmental aspect of the fashion industry because of what people buy, why they buy things, what type of things they look for in terms of quality or brand, and also where they go to shop. Consumerism can also come into play when people look into the quality or brand of the item they are going to buy. Some people only buy things because of the name brand or quality of the item and some people buy things cause it is a good deal and they feel like they need to buy it. Giorgio Armani states “the difference between style and fashion is quality” with all of the cheaper clothing companies in the world today people forget to look quality items and just go to the good deals. People want to fit in and look presentable, so when they buy things, they usually buy to impress others, present themselves in a well-mannered way, or to feel good about themselves.
There was a time, when people would walk into a store looking for a piece of clothing and could not find the piece that they were looking for. They would accept that the piece they were looking for was not in the store and they were sometimes told when to stop back buy if the item was going to be restocked. In some cases, they would return to the store if they were told the piece would be restocked and were able to stop back by. They would also maybe trying looking for the piece at other stores or maybe not even purchasing the piece after all. Today, big brands are at the mercy of the consumer. Now, if you want to buy a new piece of clothing, you may go into a store and realize they do not have the size or color in the piece you want in store. The sales person will be glad to order your size if they have it online or in another store and deliver it to you as soon as possible. Once delivered, you try it on and it fits and you are happy. Another scenario today, is that the piece you want is not in stock online and the sales person has no idea if the piece will be restocked. In todays world that is unacceptable. Consumers today expect a retailer to tell them how and when they can get that piece and it needs to be in a seamless process that makes them happy. Founder and CEO of Reformation, Yael Aflalo states “Nobody wants to wait for something. I order my thing, I can get it within an hour. That’s how it is.” Otherwise, she will shop somewhere else.
Social media and social networking create more immediate access to the Real Time Fashion market that consumers now see as an expectation. The process of having a product on the shelf almost as soon as it becomes a trend is called Real Time Fashion. With the use of social media today, consumers see a piece of clothing they like and want it to be stocked in the store that carries that certain piece in their size and color. For brands to be able to meet this consumer expectation they must capitalize on mass production of textile goods. Online stores ASOS, Boohoo, and Missguided, which specialize in fashionable and affordable clothing for young adults, are using social media to keep on top of trends. It takes ASOS between two and eight weeks to get a product from concept to sale. It takes Boohoo two weeks and Misguided as little as one, beating Zara’s formerly speedy five-week turnaround and far outpacing H&M, which can take up to six months. Initial designs are made in small batches, and if they’re popular, more are rolled out. This strategy allows them to match supply with changing demand. We now live in an age when you can buy a garment on your phone just moments after it first walked down the runway. With all of the fashion bloggers and influencers in the world today, people who like their style and what they are wearing can get the exact look through influencer programs like liketoknow.it and Shop Style Collective as soon as they post their outfits and can shop directly from their post.
The Fast Fashion industry is one of the largest contributors of negligence in the workplace, capitalizing on cheap production by ignoring labor laws globally. Not only does Fast Fashion make use of the factory workers from other countries but it has a large negative impact on the global environment.The use of factories in foreign countries is the source of the clothing you would find in your average bargain fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M. These big businesses are known for cutting corners to make the business work rather than acknowledging workers needs and compensating them for their work. This creates a trickle down effect leaving factory workers in unworkable conditions. The Fast Fashion culture that consumerism has created is a huge contributor to the damage that textile waste has on the environment. The more styles produced by these Fast Fashion retailers leads to more purchases, but it is often the case that people forget that more purchases lead to more waste. Ultimately the Fast Fashion industry is contributing to a greater problem with the cheaper clothing companies.
As we cycle through clothing faster and faster, the industry’s environmental impact has exploded. The desire for new clothes is something that may be impossible to change.
The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more. As a fashion blogger, I have noticed if a consumer sees piece of clothing on social media and or the internet, and they like it, they are going to make a rational decision and buy that piece because everyone is wearing it and it is trending. It is okay to be rational every once in awhile and buy a piece that you love and you can put more than one outfit in your head with that piece. But when you are only buying stuff that is cheap and trending, it is very damaging to the environment and it also affects the secondhand market because these fast fashion clothes are not meant to be used for long. I like to spend more money on clothes that I can keep in my closet for multiple years and wear it season after season and it not go out of style. All of the basic pieces of clothing in my closet I tend to spend more money on because I plan on wearing them over and over. It is okay to shop at more affordable stores and buy a couple of pieces each season that you know are only good for a couple of wears. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The quote “Buy less choose well” from Vivienne Westwood stands out to me because consumers like me seem to buy things because they are cheap or a good deal even if it is something you do not really want. Just because it is cheap or a good deal does not mean you need it.
The concept of Fast Fashion has created a market where the clothes become more affordable, in turn attracting customers to buy more products and even bragging when they find a great deal. The fashion industry is becoming a form of entertainment that only meets temporary style needs of consumers. The Fast Fashion industry has turned a four season year into a year that has an upward trend of 52 different fashion seasons. This means that new designs of clothes do not come out just four times in a year, they come out every week.
In an industry that has historically been focused on moving faster, it’s time to consider slowing down, at least enough to be more mindful of the purchases that we make. Of course, we must also acknowledge that there are major problems with our current fashion system, such as unjust labor practices and catastrophic amounts of waste. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that we have to go back to making our own clothes from scratch anytime soon.
It is up to us as consumers to think before we make an impulsive buy on cheap clothes that we will get a couple of uses out of. Just because it is a good deal does not mean you need to buy it. That is the problem in the fashion world today. We get trapped in this consumerism cycle, which begins with seeing ads, buying the clothes or products advertised, and working to be able to afford those products. This goes on, in an effort to satisfy our desire to fit into the norms that society has set. As we have developed into a consumer-based society, we have come to the age of “fast fashion”. We get stuck into this consumerism cycle. This goes on, in an effort to satisfy our desire to fit into the norms that society has set. Fast fashion is changing consumerism, how the use of social media and social networking creates immediate access to the real time fashion market, and the negative impact of cheap fast fashion on the global environment.