In a time when mass-consumerism is at an all-time high, fast fashion is thriving but who are the true victims and what is the solution to reinstate a much-needed ethical balance within the design industry?

According to Investopedia, ‘"Fast fashion” is a term used by fashion retailers to describe inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged. Today, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week to stay on-trend.’’

The fashion industry is working at an alarming pace to keep up with the insurmountable demand from insatiable consumers. About 20 years ago, clothes shopping was an occasional event when new sizes were needed or a special event was coming up.

Then, something changed. Clothes became cheaper and the life cycle of trends accelerated meaning that the way in which we sought out clothes also changed. Clothes became cheaper and with the rise of e-commerce sites, more accessible and instead of shopping out of necessity, people began shopping because, well, because they could.

Suddenly, buying clothes because a favourite pastime and catching onto the latest trends, somewhat of a sport. Fashion because increasingly dispensable with people wearing outfits once and throwing them away. Everyone could afford to emulate their favourite celebrities and low budget stores were churning out runway knockoffs giving an unprecedented level of accessibility to the masses.

The horrific Rana Plaza collapse claimed the lives of thousands of workers in Bangladesh [Credit: Al Jazeera]

However, in 2013, this rise in relentless consumerism got a sobering wake-up call. The building which houses Rana Plaza clothing manufacturing complex in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,000 workers in a preventable tragedy which sent shock-waves all over the world.

People began to wake up to the true cost of the fast fashion industry and began questioning just how it were possible for them to be $5 items on this side of the world. Who was producing these clothes? What were they being paid? What conditions were they working under? The day of reckoning had arrived for the fashion industry at large and consumers started asking the tough questions.

The manufacturing process for fast fashion certainly leaves a lot to be desired with each garment being produced at blinding speed with little thought for quality and longevity; in order to keep the costs so low, manufacturers are using the poorest quality fabrics.

So, what’s the solution? It’s pretty simple actually, slow fashion. Slow fashion is pretty self-explanatory and though the name may not sound appealing, it is a process which holds everyone accountable at every stage of production and ensures that works, artisans and designers are all held to a certain standard and given the rights they deserve.

As consumers, we need to ensure that the values of our selected designers align with ours. We should endeavour to choose designers whose materials are locally-sourced and produced and are proudly purveyors of the slow-fashion movement because these days, what is fashion without a conscience?