After the industrial revolution made mass production possible, products became accessible at large quantities and remarkably low prices. One of the first adopters of the new manufacturing methods was the textile industry. Mechanisation meant weaving could be done at a dizzying pace. Small workshops became factories. Factories meant new job opportunities and new standards of living.
Oh Mr Selfridge
In the face of a wider selection of products at their disposal, the public started developing a taste; the newly affluent started seeking luxury. That's when department stores emerged and made shopping a leisure activity rather than a necessity. People started shopping for style. Department stores became bodies that dictate what people wanted.
By the 1950s the world had already started to turn faster. The war had ended. Rationing was over. Prosperity was on its way. People were ready to buy. It was the golden age for advertising which now dictated consumer behaviour through a new medium: TV. Technology and production methods had evolved to better suit shoppers' changing demands. This could all mean one thing, consumption at a faster rate.
Fast and furious
In a world where daily consumption was in all its glory, like so many other industries, fashion was first in line to feed people's appetite for more. Before, shopping for clothing was an occasional event that happened seasonally. After the prosperity of the 1960s made clothing a form of self-expression, fashion retailers started producing lookalikes of top fashion houses' designs at very low costs to keep up with the style gusto of the younger generation. But it wasn't until the 1990s that fast fashion really came on the scene where seasonal cycles shifted from long term to short term.
In the past two decades, with globalisation and the emergence of online shopping, fast fashion manufacturing reached its peak. Shoppers had to buy more frequently to keep up with micro trends. Clothing was now more affordable than ever, at the consumers' fingertips and only one click away. But ‘fast’ meant low quality and low-quality garments didn't have any longevity; they were disposable.
You are what you buy
It paved the way for wasteful consumption which is, to date, one of the most harmful impacts of fashion on our planet. The public became aware of the negative impacts that fast production causes. A new type of consumer that makes positive purchase decisions rose. Mindful in their purchase decisions, the conscious consumer sought to quit impulse purchases and make more informed decisions about whose products they chose to buy.
Slow is a statement
A new mindset had to be adopted to preserve our planet both ecologically and socially. Fast fashion got counteracted by the rise of slow fashion movement which aims to practice slower production schedules, fair wages and lower carbon build-up. Slow fashion abandons seasonality which means fewer collections per year and adopts longevity which means garments are made to last with high-quality materials.
Fashion in the time of Corona
This year, Covid-19 has changed all of our lives for better or for worse. We stopped travelling; we saw the sky in a different colour. We stopped wanting things; we started needing. Time and money became more valuable commodities than ever. We stopped buying and we gravitated towards meaningful experiences. This global behavioural shift brought about a significant decrease in consumption which made the world see once again the extent to which we are harming our planet.
In an industry where production processes cause a negative impact both environmentally and socially, this moment in time marks the perfect opportunity for fashion to reinvent itself for a more sustainable future.