fashion garments towards those involved in the factories that manufacture them at a fraction of the sale price.
A Cambridge University study reports that in 2006, people were buying a third more clothes than they were in 2002, and women have four times as many clothes in their wardrobe than they did in 1980. Women are also getting rid of similar amounts each year. Brands began competing against each other for market share by introducing more lines per year at lower costs, culminating in a situation where ‘fashion houses now offer up to 18 collections a year’ and the low cost, so called ‘value end’ is ‘booming; doubling in size in just 5 years.‘
Retailers must respond to quickly changing fashion trends, which now changein weeks instead of months – thanks in part to instant coverage of fashion weeks and street style online. It used to take about six months for a product to get to market, and this has now been slashed down to three week cycles.
This naturally has led to pressure on the supply chain. “Buyers pressurefactories to deliver quality products with ever-shorter lead times. Most factories just don’t have the tools and expertise to manage this effectively, so they put the squeeze on the workers. It’s the only margin they have to play with.” (Oxfam report, 2004) The increase in the amount of clothes people consume also has consequences for the environment. Statistics suggest that on average, UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year and that 1.2 million tonnes of clothing went to landfill in 2005 in the UK alone.
Some companies have started to address problems associated with fast fashionthrough training their buyers in responsible buying practices. Other fashion companies have chosen to integrate recycled textiles andclothing in their collections, or to raise consumer awareness about the advantages of ethically sourced, good quality fashion items as opposed to low cost, fast fashion.