Fashion History, Fast Fashion and the Future Fashion Industry

“The UK fashion industry has a long, proud and diverse history encompassing distinct associations with historical eras –” according to the British Fashion Council however it is no longer as it was.  This could be because of the new found attitude of fast fashion.

The approach ‘Fast Fashion’ describes the quick transition of designs from catwalk to production, capturing the current fashion trends.  It was first introduced as a way for brands to increase profits through low–labour costs.  Kate Fletcher said, “Fast isn’t free – someone somewhere is paying…” it is clear that the environment is equally suffering from this new industry technique.  The fast movement of fashion means that while most designer fashion labels produce two seasonal collections each year, high street brands have increased the number of collections they produce in order to compete with other brands.  With high street brands producing collections mid-season it creates more interest from the consumer market because this means there are new trends to collect in-between main season shows.  A problem could be that it raises more questions for ethics and morals because this encourages people to be more wasteful.  Also ‘Fast Fashion’ has been considered by some as ‘throw-away fashion’ due to being able to replace or buy new trends.  Alexander Fury explains, “Fast Fashion’, is no longer a niche product, but an attitude affecting the industry at every level,” which is evident in the increase in labels adopting a new “See now, buy now, wear now” model to runway shows.  This attitude has caused a decrease in the amount of people investing in high quality collectable pieces because it has become so easy to compile popular, new trends for a lesser price from the high street.

The runway concept is usually a two-season model based on spring/summer and autumn/winter trends creating two opposite wardrobes, however this idea is now considered to be outdated.  In the UK, industry-wide activity is driven by designer fashion so the changes to the original model transformed in order to fit into the new ‘Fast fashion’ attitude of the fashion industry.  Therefore, the “See now, Buy now” trend has been created meaning that the collections are now showcased at the beginning of the season rather than six months previously.  This could be more logical and convenient for the fashion market because current trends from designers will be able to be bought as they are being viewed on the catwalk show.  Some of the brands that have adopted the new model for runway shows are; Burberry, Paul Smith, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger, which Duane implies “is ‘absolutely logical’ for huge brands who can afford to make big noise with their shows.”  The twice-yearly trend round-up is dead, and Christopher Bailey from Burberry believes this new model is “an ongoing evolution.”

Another change across the runway is that womenswear and menswear are increasingly being shown together resulting in an industry that is now integrated.  The impact of this has meant that elements of the menswear culture has been and will continue to be introduced into mainstream fashion.

As reported by the British Fashion Council, “A decline in UK manufacturing over the past 15 years has occurred as, retailers and wholesalers have increasingly sought to source goods from emerging markets which enjoy a competitive advantage,” due to low labour costs elsewhere this means that not many garments are made locally anymore. There are ethical concerns which may not have been considered for both the consumer and for the worker.  Has the need for ‘Fast fashion’ in this environment compromised the value of ethics and moral principles of the consumer and worker?

Creative personnel are working on using technology to improve the fashion industry through sustainability – “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”  This is important, especially when it comes to ‘Fast fashion’, the consumer needs to be more aware in order to avoid a quick fix, and think about the future of fashion.

A strength of UK design is its creativity, it has also been said to hold a unique, and ‘edgy’ feel which helps to differentiate fashion identity internationally.  We can hope that the UK continues to showcase an advance in creativity when it comes to fashion design as a way of standing out and being individual.  Donaldson specifies, “Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others” although the garments we make and wear reflect the culture and time in which they were created, as changes occur our style will change with the movement of fashion.


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