No, Gen Z Hasn't Killed Fast Fashion

Brands such as Boohoo are doing just fine.


In the past 18 months, headlines have suggested that Gen Z have killed off the fast fashion industry, with second-hand being the only way forward. Yes, second-hand and shopping has increased rapidly in recent years, with a 2020 report by thredUP revealing the second-hand market is set to hit $64 billion in the next five years. Yet, the idea that Gen Z has single-handedly ended the fast fashion industry lacks truth.

The closure of many high-street stores, and brands going into administration, is more a response to the growing e-commerce platform for fashion, rather than consumers ditching fast fashion altogether. Despite growing consciousness amongst consumers about the damaging effects of fast fashion, sales are booming for companies such as Boohoo, Missguided and Pretty Little Thing. Between February and August 2020, sales rose by 45% for Boohoo, despite the pandemic. 

During Black Friday, Pretty Little Thing came under fire for selling items for as little as 8p. Backlash at the company became monumental, with one Twitter user writing “educate yourself on fast fashion and I promise you those 4p Pretty Little Thing bikini bottoms won’t appeal to you as much”. But is lack of education around fast fashion the problem here? After all, with Extinction Rebellion and individuals such as Greta Thunberg rising in significance over the past few years, surely by now we must realise the dangers of fast fashion. So why do we keep buying it?

One factor is cost, especially since the pandemic hit, which has led to a loss in wages and jobs. A report into UK and US online shopping habits found that 52% of consumers want more sustainable fashion items, yet only 29% would be willing to pay more for it. Brands that practise ethical production often have to increase their prices because they aren’t using cheap labour.

Yet, this argument of income is often criticised. Fashion writer Aja Barber commented in 2020 saying “The ‘poor’ argument is intellectually dishonest, fast fashion is a problem perpetuated by the middle class and wealthy. The poor do not collectively have the funds to keep this cycle extremely profitable.” She’s right. There’s a significant difference between having to buy clothes from fast fashion brands because it’s not possible to shop anywhere else, and mass buying products from fast fashion brands to remain on top of trends.

Another reason for the continued purchasing of fast fashion is lack of inclusivity. Many plus-size people struggle to find accommodations for their body. According to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, the average American woman wears a size 16-18, yet the majority of sustainable products available are between sizes 0-8.

Unfortunately, platforms such as Depop, a re-selling app, which according to the company is attempting to “make fashion more inclusive, diverse and less wasteful” are being gentrified. Sellers are often overcharging to make a bigger profit, with items from brands such as Brandy Melville being sold for £360, despite the original costing under £50. Some users even go to charity/thrift shops to mass buying items, just to ring up the price on Depop and label it as “#vintage”.


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Yet the blame shouldn’t just fall to average consumers. Brands have a responsibility to produce ethical clothing to reduce waste, and ultimately keep our planet alive. In fact, nine in ten Gen Z consumers believe companies need to address environmental and social issues. For now, though, it seems like price continues to drive our decisions, regardless of whether it is out of necessity.

So, it seems that despite growing awareness amongst consumers, especially Gen Z consumers, when it comes to style, fast fashion is still very much ahead in the game. Whilst we should all try and shop ethically where we can, companies need to be held accountable for the way they run their business and produce their products. After all, we only have one planet to live on.

Next up, Stop, We're Moving Too Fast - The Rise Of Slow Fashion