Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. A second, critical definition adds that fast fashion is not only about quickly moving from runway to store to consumer, but also to the garbage. Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and the autumn of every year. Emphasis is on optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain for these trends to be designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively to allow the mainstream consumer to buy current clothing styles at a lower price. This philosophy of quick manufacturing at an affordable price is used in large retailers such as H&M, Zara, C&A, Peacocks, Primark, Xcel Brands, and Topshop. It particularly came to the fore during the vogue for „boho chic” in the mid-2000s. According to the UK Environmental Audit Committee’s repost „Fixing Fashion,” fast fashion „involves increased numbers of new fashion collections every year, quick turnarounds and often lower prices. Reacting rapidly to offer new products to meet consumer demand is crucial to this business model.”
This has developed from a product-driven concept based on a manufacturing model referred to as „quick response” developed in the U.S. in the 1980s and moved to a market-based model of „fast fashion” in the late 1990s and first part of the 21st century. Zara has been at the forefront of this fashion retail revolution and their brand has almost become synonymous with the term, but there were other retailers who worked with the concept before the label was applied, such as Benetton. Fast fashion has also become associated with disposable fashion because it has delivered designer product to a mass market at relatively low prices.
The slow fashion or conscious fashion movement has arisen in opposition to fast fashion, blaming it for pollution (both in the production of clothes and in the decay of synthetic fabrics), shoddy workmanship, and emphasizing very brief trends over classic style. Elizabeth L. Cline’s 2012 book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion was one of the first investigations into the human and environmental toll of fast fashion. Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries. The 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, the deadliest garment-related accident in world history, brought more attention to the safety impact of the fast fashion industry.