“Fast fashion” is a term now used to describe the hyper-quick creation of clothing collections based on the most recent fashion trends. Clothing is designed for quick and cheap production turns and aimed at the mainstream consumers for mass consumption.
But, I want to step slightly backwards and examine the inception of Fast Fashion. Fast Fashion began as an initiative by American manufacturers to combat stiff competition from foreign manufacturers in the 1980s. The concepts initially introduced were Just In Time(JIT) and Quick Response(QR). These concepts were more about the use of technology in order to build better collaboration between retailers and manufacturers in order to be more responsive to consumers and less to do with creating disposable fashion.
Quick Response gave manufacturers the ability to build production processes and incorporate collaborative communication-based technologies, such as email, pos, and edi, in order to go from concept to consumer in a very short period of time, to move away from a 6 month production cycle to a 90 day production cycle and then next to 6 weeks, until finally, such companies, such as Zara, can boast production lead times as short as 15 days.
It is wonderful that we have become so refined in our communication and use of technology to be able to collaboratively produce fashion garments in such a short span. Although many retailers have gained in terms of increased stock turns, higher foot traffic, and improved gross margins; we, consumers and creators collectively, have lost…both our ability to offer sophisticated, quality garments as well as maintain integrity in our workmanship. But, even more tellingly, we have lost the time to truly enjoy and savor the efforts and mastery of the designs that are presented to us on the runway each fashion season. We are now too busy snapping or clipping photos, picking apart components, and removing exquisite trim and details in order to make the 24 hour deadline that is often required to strip down a beautifully tailored dress or jacket and refashion into “fast fashion.”
In order to meet fast fashion deadlines requires that one does not become too involved in the development of new products and a willingness to forgo innovative printing techniques and textiles and instead work with common fabrics and yarns as the components used to create these quick turn garments have to readily be available.
We are now too preoccupied with compressing our collections into a few short weeks to be able to truly explore the intricate fabrics and patterns presented to us at Premiere Vision, to stop and stand in awe at the command of cut and confidence in the use of textiles shown in Etro’s collection, or to revel along with Kors and Mizrahi in their brave introduction of color in a world that seems to be more and more grey…we needed the color, the bright pinks, pop oranges, daring greens, and sunshine yellows, to be given a reason to “Smile” in spite of it all. These collections, all that has been presented thus far in New York, London, and Milan, and soon Paris, should be quietly observed, intimated into your being, and thoughtfully processed in a manner no different than viewing any other work of art.
Yes, I know…fashion is a business, but first, it is and remains an element of expression. Its ability to transform no less, maybe more so, powerful than a Bas painting or a Wu-Kang Chan dance troupe performance as we are all able to interact on a personal, intimate level with fashion.
We have to begin to approach fashion from a different level. Our current economic , as well as environmental, crisis calls for bold, new actions on the part of every individual. Sustainable fashion is one step toward building a new coalition that is relevant and responsive to our current social climate.
Sustainable fashion solutions is based on repositioning our approach to design, production, consumption, use, and reuse. Sustainable fashion forces us to ask the question how can we be more responsible and ethical while providing our consumers with fashion options that are attractive and reflect trends.
We must begin to examine, as well as provide, models that reflect more socially aware fashions. How can we start? We can design into a longer “shelf” life for fashion apparel, provide easy garment reuse and recycling options to our consumers …we are not too far away from this concept…think vintage shopping and you are almost thereJ; initiate and support fair trade communities, and finally actively incorporate recycled materials into the design and production process.
The British government recently proposed a Sustainable Clothing Action Plan(SCAP). SCAP is a series of green pledges from London’s high street retailers. The plan has enrolled more than 300 organizations, from retailers, to designers and textile manufacturers who have pledged to improve the sustainability of clothing.
There are many fashion companies, retailers, and grassroots organizations that have already begun to campaign for more industry use of sustainable fashions. One of my favorites is Make Your Mark In Fashion which launched a competition geared at young people aged 14-30 to create a business plan for a new sustainable fashion label. Another great organization is The Sustainable Style Foundation. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, The Sustainable Style Foundation is an international, nonprofit organization that provides information, resources, and innovative programs geared toward promoting sustainable living and design. The London College is another agent for change within our industry. Its Center for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) describes itself as a globally connected catalyst for change, fully integrated with the fashion industry to create better lives through a sustainable fashion economy.
We can all begin to do our part, take small steps, see big results…ask yourself, in whatever part you play in the apparel cycle, what small steps can I take to begin to make a difference. It is our opportunity to begin to evolve as an industry and do what we do best…create (positive) change.
I invite you to check out the blog’s vodpod and see how one of us(Jackie’s Recycled Fashions) is making steps toward change.