• Idle Hands Collective

A Short History of Fast Fashion

The rise of fast fashion has been instrumental to how fashion is valued and viewed today by consumers across the industry. From the 1940’s, the commercialisation of sewing patterns by Butterick and the standardisation of women’s sizing in the US meant that any woman with a home sewing machine had access to the latest fashion. It empowered the female consumer, especially with popular styles such as ‘The Walk-Away Dress’ which claimed to be ready in a morning of sewing.

The true dawn of Fast Fashion was in the 1960’s, when the younger generation found themselves with disposable income and were keen to dispel the traditional values of their parents. Yves Saint Laurent began to translate Haute Couture to Ready-To-Wear with the Rive Gauche collections. This brought high fashion to a younger audience, along with fashion being available on the high street for the first time. Advances in textile technology meant fabrics were less expensive so exciting new style were affordable and even more available. In 1967, there were even disposable garments made of paper.

The 1990’s began with the ideology that fast fashion would empower the consumer. Zara opened their first store in New York in 1990 with the mission that clothes would go from design to rail in fifteen days. This rapidly created huge competition within the sector which the supply chain had to accommodate. The impact on the world’s resources and welfare of workers is evident. The Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 and the disappearance of the Aral Sea due to cotton irrigation are some of the worst examples. The grave environmental and human impacts of the are being felt with full force now however there is still relatively little coverage- you have to go looking for the information.

Today, the rise of social media and the constrictive consumerist society means the demand for cheap throw away clothes is higher than ever. I’m sure a lot of you reading this post have felt the pressure to buy something new “for the gram”. Then whilst on social media, we are marketed fast fashion through adverts and influencer endorsements. It can be hard to ignore when it is so ferociously thrown at us.

We are only human.

So when you see a pair of trousers thats £5 you have to ask- who paid for the rest of that?