Before I start, let me confirm that I do hate the impact fast fashion has on the planet and on garment workers. I also hate the way high street fast fashion blames us for the rapid consumption of their products. I’ve banged on about that side of fast fashion and its exploitation already in my past blogs for Monozygotics (and I will continue to bang on about them in future blogs too.)
But this blog is about the impact of fast fashion on its creatives – especially it’s young designers.
There are two prongs to the pitchfork that fashion carries for its own creatives. First the fact that high street brands – especially fast fashion ones rip off designs from young designers and even students constantly. Second the fact that young designers without masses of employees and money are forced to try to keep up with this rapid cycle – where new styles can come out every single day.
Being a young designer, you pour your heart and soul into your designs, a single print for a t-shirt could take weeks of research, planning and developing and express something extremely personal to the artist. Big brands are in a position where they can find and copy these meaningful designs in a snap. And unless the designer (or student designer) has a massive, loyal online following or some kind of famous connections there’s really nothing that they can do to fight against this kind of theft. For the brand it’s a quick profit, for the designer it’s months’ worth of lost work, theft of their feelings and their intellectual property and in some cases, they can even be mistakenly called out for copying the brand that robbed them! A young designer may have to wait weeks for fabric or printing facilities, and hand sew every garment, A big brand can outsource the design and have 1000 pieces to sell within a week. It isn’t fair and can be more damaging to a young creative than you would ever imagine.
Then when you aren’t being ripped off, you’re being forced to keep up. For a small brand without factories and employees like your larger sisters it’s almost impossible to produce new designs at the same capacity – especially as small designers tend to take pride in their work and dedicate lots of time and testing to new designs! If you add in the challenge of trying to be ethical and sustainable (which so many small brands do so well!) the design process becomes even more expensive and challenging for smaller businesses who aren’t willing to exploit like the big brands.
This alone is enough to make my blood boil, I personally know independent designers who have stumbled upon exact copies of a signature garment that they toiled over for months – on sale for a fraction of the price. The feeling of being robbed like that, and knowing that there is nothing you can do about it really, REALLY sucks.
On top of that fashion also ‘employs’ thousands of unpaid interns (doing real jobs full time – but not paid) who are being exploited for their work, and keeps even more thousands of people in low-wage retail jobs on 0-hour contracts to sell their garments.
Combine these in-industry exploitations with that of vulnerable garment workers and a willing destruction of the planet for a profit… I think it’s clear that fast fashion needs to step its pussy up.
What you can to do help this happen is to try to shop from independent designers if you can (although they are sometimes more expensive) and if not at least avoid buying obvious rip-offs when you do buy fast fashion. And the most important thing that everyone can do: just call brands out, if you see a young designer, you follow is complaining of being copied check it out and tag the brand in the comments. A lot of the time the brand will ignore claims kicking off on social media, but every tag helps draw attention and will let the original designer know that they are valued and supported.