According to the Oxford Dictionary, fast fashion is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” Meanwhile the definition by Cambridge Dictionary says that it is “clothes that are made and sold cheaply, so that people can buy new clothes often.”
Believe it or not, fast fashion was created in the 1800’s during the Industrial Revolution. Textile machines were introduced into factories which enabled clothes to be produced at a much more rapid speed. The very first sewing machine was patented in 1846 and allowed manufacturers to mass-produce clothes in a variation of sizes. According to Sara Idacavage writing in Fashionista, as more clothes were factory-made, their prices plummeted and this resulted in more purchases. More people were able to afford factory-made garments.
Impact of Coronavirus on Fast Fashion
When we think of the impact on fast fashion, we are really referring to the people making a living in the fashion industry. In particular, those who are paid the lowest and are working in factories manufacturing clothes. When retailers withdrew their orders or simply refused to pay even when orders were fulfilled, these workers were the first to lose their jobs and they usually do not have any insurance to tie them through the onslaught.
According to an article entitled “European Retailers Scrap $1.5 Billion of Bangladesh Orders, “European and U.S. buyers including Primark, the budget fashion chain owned by Associated British Foods Plc, have cancelled about $1.5 billion of Bangladesh garment orders as the coronavirus outbreak roils demand” and “as many as 1,089 Bangladesh garment factories have seen orders getting scrapped, Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said on LinkedIn. That’s impacting lives of 1.2 million workers, she said” and another alarming fact from the same article also stated that “readymade clothing factories employ more than 4 million people and the industry accounts for 13% of the South Asian nation’s gross domestic product” and “Primark which has no online sales, is using a force majeure clause in its contracts to cancel orders, Britain’s Sunday Times reported citing Chief Executive Officer Paul Marchant. Primark operates 376 stores in 12 countries.”
However, it is not just factory workers who are getting laid off. Other personnel in the fashion industry, for example, delivery and logistics staff are also facing the brunt of the Coronavirus.
What You Can Do To Help The Fashion Industry
Every single effort helps and this is what you can do:
Tell Your Favorite Retailer Not To Cancel Orders
You and your family members, friends and colleagues can write to your favorite retailer with a strongly worded message to discourage them from cancelling orders, saying that this will raise their corporate social standing. In addition, suggest to retailers that they could also pay for their orders by installments, thus, they can still have some cash in hand.
Contact the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the British Fashion Council (BFC)
The CFDA and BFC hold a lot of power and set the guidelines of practice for the fashion industry. As a consumer, you have the right to contact them to voice your concern about workers in the fashion industry losing their jobs. Appeal to their role as stewards in setting a professional standard on how the fashion industry should function, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Donate to Garment Workers and Manufacturers’ Unions/Associations
Earlier, I mentioned the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association which is just one of the associations or unions out there trying to help workers in the fashion industry.
You might also wish to consider Solidarity Center which represent workers in the following under-developed countries:
Support Fashion Brands that Protect Garment Workers
According to an article called “Brands agree to protect workers in Myanmar”, “some of the world’s biggest fashion brands including H&M, Zara owners Inditext and C&A have reached an agreement with suppliers and trade unions to protect garment factories and workers in Myanmar from the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [v]
By finding out before you make a purchase, you are indirectly supporting workers when you buy from those brands which protect their work force from Covid-19.
Everyone has been affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic but I hope that we can still help out wherever we can, even in the fashion industry.
Ana Yong is a freelance writer. Her articles are focused on the Ecology, Personal Development and English Writing. She is also a TESOL-certified trainer. Ana has written for Unsustainable Magazine and HubPages.