• Aashana Daru

The Fixation on Fast Fashion

Much to the delight of my Econ teacher, I’d like to commence with an Economics 101 lesson: supply does not exist without demand. For there to be supply, there needs to be demand. (There are multiple takes, it’s a very “chicken-or-egg come first” situation so don’t completely take my word for it.)The fast fashion industry is notorious for a laundry list of heinous crimes; from underpaid workers to excessive pollution, its nightmare production practices rival those of Amazon, almost. But what ultimately enables production like this to function is simple: demand.

It’s easy: people demand, brands just supply.

If everyone stopped buying from these brands, would they exist? Probably not.

Is this possible? Definitely not.

Most of us are aware of which brands to avoid––the H&Ms, Bershkas and Victoria Secrets of the world. We know what these brands do, but we still find ourselves shopping from them. This is usually the point where TOK students and philosophers say, “Hmm, that’s on you sis.” The question no one answers is: why do we shush our moral compass when we enter H&M?

Like all worthwhile questions, there are many answers:

  1. General growth in obsession with physical appearances, a concept that social media has popularised

  2. Increased global income, so more people can afford to spend on clothes

  3. Actually-bougie brands are too expensive (but remember, those too are doing shady things!)

Now that we’re talking about it, price is a massively influential factor in shopping––duh!––but price alone is not the deciding factor; advertising is the biggest player in the shopping process, and this is why:

In 1943, Abraham Maslow derived the idea of the Hierarchy of Needs:


The physiological level includes basics: water, food, clothing––this is the level advertising targets. It works off the denial of our access to these needs; does “I don’t have anything to wear!” sound familiar? Fuelled by social media, you see more outfits and thus, want more clothes to add to that physiological “need”.

Moreover, this worry that you will not have the cutest outfit is further fuelled by campaigns. Advertising encourages emotional consumption; 31% of campaigns target emotion, versus only 16% that target reason.

To elicit emotion, ads use strong wording––“save”, “now”, “shop”––with emotive punctuation. Since most decisions are made by the subconscious mind, brands just need to get in there. Language, their models and even the colors they use increase the retention value of their advertising. (Explains why almost every ad is red, black or white.) (Tytyk).

This is where price comes in; you’ve registered the brand, they’re floating in the back of your head and the next time you want a new outfit, you think of this brand. You drop in to their nearest store, browse and find something cute. You’re too scared to check the price tag, but when you flip it over, you’re shocked––it costs close to nothing! Disbelieving, you rush to buy it.

This is what we call the pre-purchase decision-making period; pretty self-explanatory, right?

We won’t get into the underlying science, but studies show that out of the three steps involved in pre-purchase decision-making, shopping at fast fashion brands eliminates two, so you hit the purchase step almost immediately (Wang).

This is also due to the lack of a risk factor; you’re not spending much money, so there’s not much risk––financially, or that of being yelled at. This immediate need to purchase is furthered by the “fast” in fast fashion; this store switches clothing so often that the next time you’re here, it may not even be there! So, you buy.

This process is shaped by many things but ends with you holding an H&M bag, thinking, “This is the last time I’m going to shop here.”

What can you do to stop advertising execs from taking over the world then?

My suggestions:

  1. Learn more about your favourite brands!

  2. Know what you’re looking for; need recognition, as it’s called by smart people, is crucial in ensuring that you avoid buying unnecessarily. Studies show that if you know what you’re looking for, you’re less likely to indulge in abstract purchases––especially from fast fashion brands because of their reduced risk factor.

  3. Shop with someone; better if this person is not going to be shopping! As usual, social pressure is a massive influence on behaviour. We don’t want to keep people waiting, so we tend to try on less and thus, buy less.

  4. Before shopping sprees, change your wallpaper to ‘Think Before You Buy’!

  5. Ask yourself these 5 questions––keep that site bookmarked, I can’t stress that enough. Or, just replace #4 and make these your wallpaper.

  6. Avoid spending on cards––spending that cold, hard cash is more likely to make you think about what you’re doing.

Ultimately, we’re all slaves to capitalism. Does that excuse the fact that you’re still buying from brands doing horrendous things? No. But, does it mean that maybe it’s not completely your fault? Yes.

Shop responsibly, find other places to––in the words of the great Donna Meagle––“treat yo self”!