Problems in the supply chain may just solve fast fashion


Photo Credits: Marcus Loke

When it comes to the world of fashion, I think a lot about fads versus trends.

Fads come and go, seemingly out of thin air, and once the perception of novelty wears off, gone is the fad itself. Trends, while also hard to track, do not go away as readily. Fads don’t become as mainstream as trends, and they definitely have less staying power. Trends can predict—and also be predicted by—our lifestyle: think crocs (fad) and versus leggings (trend).

Effectually, while fads come and go, trends are more like art; they imitate reality. With this interpretation, we should all be very concerned about the “trend” of fast fashion: our unending buying of unsustainable—and in many cases unethically—produced garments.

While delays in shipping and production don’t seem to play a huge role in our day-to-day lives, the slowed rates are bringing people to a point where they think, ‘This won’t come in time, I guess I don’t need it.’

Anyone who knows me knows of my love affair with fashion; it took hold early, has never waned, and is pretty intense. Almost every designer I would really like to wear is completely out of my budget. So, I often find myself on Poshmark or other sites that promote re-wear. For those of you who don’t have the interest or patience for this, buying mainstream stores online has been abundantly easy—until now. With the global supply chain issues going haywire, delays in shipping are increasing. Websites are warning the public: ‘Buy now to receive in time for Christmas.’ Oddly enough, this problem may solve fast fashion. No longer can we order three cheap shirts to arrive on Thursday just to see which color we like best—our shopping and purchases now have to become a lot more intentional.

I am not, in any way, implying that I have never contributed to fast fashion. This is not an article where I sit in judgment, but instead, a piece to spread awareness about a toxic industry in need of change that I have, admittedly, been a participant in. From environmental depletion aspects to human rights violations, the topic of fast fashion is enormous. It is such a widespread problem that trying to tackle it has been insurmountable in the last decade; fast fashion items have been easy and cheap to buy until now.

“They don’t cost much and they’re not that well-made, so it doesn’t feel like you’re really wasting anything when you throw them away, or bury them at the back of your closet. They’re not intended for long-term use, because before long they’ll fall apart. But they’re also not really well-designed for disposability, because they’re mostly made from synthetic materials that never break down, and will remain on Earth forever” (Egyo, 2021).

Public relations campaigns have not worked. Celebrity voices have not worked. Boycotts from major labels have not worked. Yet, the solution to this might be at our doorstep, or should I say, won’t be at our doorstep. 

Ships are delayed, factories aren’t up and running, delivery companies can’t staff up, and the fashion industry is behind. I first noticed these delays in purchasing formal wear; it seemed like no one made dresses in late 2020 to early 2021. It was even hard to find selection and sizes in formal wear this fall. Then came Halloween, and suddenly, finding the last-minute cheap costume pieces wasn’t an option. Long lines gathered in front of pop-up Halloween stores that did not stock up on fairy wings this year, and inexpensive costumes were at a premium. These “problems” might be the solution. If we can’t help ourselves, the restrictions of purchase procurement might be what eventually shifts our buying mentality.

“Our culture is obsessed with the excitement and attraction of newness, which makes what’s old seem like it’s perpetually diminishing in value. I’m sure I don’t need to explicitly make the connection to the way we treat women as they age; our fetishization of youth; the way we all but discard, isolate and forget about the elderly; and how we refuse to talk openly and honestly about death. Effects of these beliefs are always silently present when we shop. Of course, an effect of always wanting more and newer is that things start to feel older faster. More and more, clothing is coming to be seen as something disposable” (Egyo, 2021).

While delays in shipping and production don’t seem to play a huge role in our day-to-day lives, the slowed rates are bringing people to a point where they think, ‘This won’t come in time, I guess I don’t need it.’ Ultimately, the problem of fast fashion lies at the heart of wants versus needs; we may see five cheaply made, inexpensive tank tops and want every color, but what we need is one quality, sustainably, ethically-made top.

The only feasible solution to fast fashion is re-wear, and if problems in the supply chain are helping us to stop and think before we buy, I think I can embrace some late packages.