Spoiler alert, definitely not!

So I'm sure many of you have heard the news, but if you haven't, former fast fashion giant Forever 21 has filed for bankruptcy. It's surprising news, I for one wasn't expecting it, and I've seen mixed reactions.

A lot of the people I follow on social media are in the slow and sustainable fashion communities and so lots of people were celebrating the fact that this giant in a planet destroying industry is on the rocks and I can understand that. There were also some people saying that this means fast fashion is dying, it's finally on it's way out! Or saying there are limits to fast fashion. Sadly this really isn't the case.

First of all I want to give my sympathies to people who were employed at F21 and who's jobs are now at risk, as much as I don't want fast fashion to keep thriving, it is not the people who are employed there's fault that their company is damaging the planet. People need to pay rent.

Back to the question at hand, this really isn't the end of fast fashion, Forever 21 really just failed to keep up with the times. Fast Fashion has actually grown 21% over the past three years[1], it isn't just growing but it's growth is speeding up, and there are two main types of brands that are thriving in this new era for fast fashion. The "Greenwashers", and those capitalising on influencers and online shopping.

Oh and there's a video below if you want to watch me talk about this.

1. The "Green Washers"

If you're not sure that the term greenwashing means, it's when brands make themselves seem more sustainable than they actually are, either by bringing out a small sustainable collection or piece in order to make the whole brand look sustainable, or by clever advertising that uses numbers and "Eco" terminology to make the brand seem more earth friendly than it is.

These brands are starting to do really well as they work for the people who are new to sustainability and believe all of their claims about being earth friendly while still being fast fashion
The big brand that comes to mind in this category is H&M, they've had their concious collection out for a pretty long time now but it keeps making healdines and people are still talking about it. A quote from Egological puts it quite well "Retailers such as H&M are focusing on the long term and looking at solutions to reduce their environmental footprint. Although they are one of the main culprits of flooding the world with inexpensive clothing, they often recycle the goods in the countries where they originated. The fabric is reprocessed into different goods such as blankets, insulation, carpet padding and pillow stuffing."[2].

However, to me this isn't real sustainability, yes it's good that stuff they overproduce is being recycled and made into new items but isn't it better that they don't overproduce in the first place? This would take a lot more work to change their business model but it would do a lot more. You can make pillow stuffing for a lot less carbon and water it takes to make clothes and then turn them into pillow stuffing ya know?

Their new marketing is working though, the other day I was looking up sustainable brands on google and they were the third brand to come up! The third brand! This does not feel right (and is another reason to use Ecosia), they may be making a start on their sustainability and trying but they're far from being a sustainable brand. But this isn't going to make a difference to the people who are new to sustainability, the people who are trying to start making more eco conscious choices but haven't done hours of research. They're going to see a brand like H&M and think "oh this is so easy I can be sustainable and still buy cheap clothing from brands I love" which isn't exactly true.
Another brand doing "sustainable fast fashion" is Reformation, who I'm conflicted about, Reformation make all of their clothing out of deadstock and recycled materials. And make most of their clothing in a factory in LA. So that mean's they're sustainable and ethical right? But they're also making a new 15-20 piece collection every single week, which doesn't seem very sustainable to me. [3]


But these companies are really thriving where Forever 21 couldn't, they're telling people that they can be eco friendly whilst also not changing their habits at all, you just have to buy from them! And it works! People don't want to change their habits. To be fair to them a lot of these "Greenwashing" brands here are changing their ways to become more sustainable, some even have some pretty sustainable practices overall, but they're still fast fashion, and in my (and many other people in the sustainable community's) opinion fast fashion will never be truly sustainable. When you're pushing out a new collection every week, and getting people to constantly buy clothing for trends, no matter what fabric you use or how much recycling you are doing, this is never going to be truly sustainable. And though these brands aren't really planet friendly, you have to respect them trying,  the other side of fast fashion don't even try.

2. Influencer Culture and Online Shopping.
66% of online online fashion traffic in the first half of this year was fast fashion[4]. The online market is bigger than ever, and if a company can't keep up with that, they're unlikely to last. If they can capitalise on it, they'll sky rocket.

A lot of companies are really thriving Forever 21 couldn't, Forever 21 started struggling to keep all of its brick and mortar stores running while a lot of the biggest fast fashion brands at the moment are only online. Missguided, Pretty Little Thing, SheIn, Fashion Nova, Boohoo, they're all online and all doing incredibly well.

But it's not just their online only presence saving them money and helping to keep costs down, they're also all massive sponsors of influencers, and influencers have an awful lot of power to keep brands going now.
Fashion Nova is a prime example of this, you can't go onto any fashion tag on instagram without seeing someone promoting Fashion Nova, and that does them well, in 2017 Fashion Nova grew 600% in one year. An incredible feat that was thanks to online sales, cheap clothing, and lots of micro influencers[5]. But these days they're even paying the likes of Kylie Jenner to promote them on instagram. #fashionnova on instagram has over 5 million pictures, and the fast fashion giant has 16.4 million followers on just their main instagram account. This is the power of influencer culture in keeping fast fashion thriving.
Missguided's £1 Bikini ad
This is the (even) nastier side of fast fashion though, earlier in the year Missguided came under fire for selling a £1 bikini, sold at a loss this was seen as the epitome of fast fashion. A bikini more likely than not made to break, and made for very little money. These are the brands that are

And influencers are guilty in this as well. Many influencers will wear three or more outfits in one day to take photos and videos for their social media, with many pieces being worn only once before being sold on on depop, given to charity shops, or even binned.  Sometimes clothing is only tried on in a haul video before never being worn again. So many resources go into making clothes, and cheap clothes have to be made cheaply and so are made by people who are not being paid enough money, often in sweatshops. Fast fashion keeps telling us we need more and more clothes by bringing out a new collection every single week, selling off cheap clothes even cheaper in regular sales, and having a general complete disregard for how this consumption affects the planet.

Boohoo, another fast fashion giant who does well from influencers, grew 44% in the first four months of this year[6]. That's a lot of growth for a company that was already a fast fashion giant. Sadly people are buying more clothes than ever, and wearing them less than ever, despite many of us becoming more environmentally conscious.

So no, Forever 21 filing for Bankruptcy does not signal the death of fast fashion. Fast fashion is growing faster than ever. But we do have the power to kill this over consuming, earth destroying industry. By buying second hand, buying slow and sustainable, and buying less. If we stop buying fast fashion, it stops thriving. Break free of over consumption, you know you want to!

What do you think of this? Have you noticed any big brands changing their ways? Can fast fashion ever be sustainable? Let me know below!

Sources:
[1] - https://econsultancy.com/four-factors-fuelling-the-growth-of-fast-fashion-retailers/#targetText=According%20to%20new%20research%2C%20the,retailers%20are%20growing%20in%20favour.&targetText=The%20McKinsey%20Global%20Fashion%20Index,3.5%20to%204.5%25%20in%202019.
[2] - https://www.edology.com/blog/fashion-media/rise-of-fast-fashion/
[3] - https://sourcingjournal.com/denim/denim-brands/reformation-trailblazer-sustainable-fast-fashion-122130/
[4] - https://www.hitwise.com/en/gated/fashion-report-2018/
[5] - https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/inside-fashion-nova-cardi-b-1202595964/