FAST FASHION IN A FAST CITY: HONG KONG'S FAST FASHION INDUSTRY
As of 2022, Hong Kong’s textile waste accounts for 390 tonnes of our landfills and 4% of our overall waste every year. Hong Kong’s fight against fast fashion has shown incredible progress, but to weed out our amounts of textile waste completely, we still have a long way to go.
Fast fashion retailers are chains that observe popular patterns or trends through media and initiate a mass production of cheap, disposable clothes. Their lines are specifically catered to what their audience finds trendy, and churned out at immense rates to fuel the ongoing demand of their customers. The key about fast fashion is that it is fast. Because the clothes are manufactured so quickly, they are weak in durability and wearability. After a short period of time, the clothes wane and we are forced to throw them out.
What Makes Fast Fashion So Appealing?
If the clothes wear out so quickly, what causes us to continuously fall into the trap of retailers such as Zara, H&M or Fashion Nova?
Obviously the clothes are disposed of quickly, but it’s not a problem if we can keep affording new batches every season. Given the abundance of clothes and their cheap prices, we are inclined to buy ten garments when we really only need two.
Naturally, the retailers do their job well by observing trends in media and implementing them in their clothing lines to catch our attention.
Original: Balenciaga $495 Zara Ripoff: $50
The shoes from the line we were all singing in Cardi B’s hit song, “I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks”. Zara’s analysts were quick to acknowledge the rising popularity of the shoes and Cardi B’s song, and came out with a 90% reduced price on their ripoff.
Social media has largely exacerbated this problem. Teenagers want to look fresh on every story or reel, and therefore f continuously rotate outfits to provide new looks every day. To level with this high demand, fast fashion brands expand their supply with new lines and promotions every week. We are spoon-fed with fresh garments so often, we simply have to come back and indulge at every new release.
Luckily, the issue is no longer as prevalent as it was ten years ago. Fast fashion’s entry into Hong Kong was a staple of catching the eyes of mainlanders and tourists, with luxury brands strategically lining Queen's Road Central and other hotspots. It was worth being in the rising fast-fashion business at the time, especially amidst the most extensive flows of tourists the city had ever seen. However, due to factors such as the pandemic and government protests, tourism rates have dropped sharply since then.
The industry, no longer receiving its familiar consumer base, began to deteriorate. Evidence of this can be witnessed from many renowned fast fashion companies throwing in the towel this year, such as TopShop and H&M in Central. What’s more, they have been replaced by more sustainable brands such as American Eagle, and other retail stores to catch the eye of consumers, like the infamous Japanese snack store Don Don Donki.
However, the problem is far from solved. Three in ten millennials have thrown away half of the clothes they purchased in the past twelve months, and waste rates are still at an all-time high. So how do we, as the public, prevent ourselves from falling into the traps of the biggest brands, and mitigate the problems within our own shopping baskets?
Switch to sustainable stores
While boycotting fast fashion endorsers such as Zara or Fashion Nova seems like a simple solution, it is probably easier said than done. But switching to more sustainable stores such as Gap, American Eagle or Ikea is definitely an option. While clothes may be pricier, they will last you much longer, and you are saving a lot more money in the long run
Watch your washing
The biggest reason for clothes waning is due to over-extensive washing. A 6kg wash can potentially release 700,000 fibers, which should make you think twice before you pop stuff in the laundry you’ve only worn once. Washing at lower temperatures and turning clothes inside out, will increase wearability and lower energy.
Donate old clothes
You may as well take advantage of the multiple clothing drives and charities near you. Donating old clothes and reusing second-hand clothes from thrift stores can save roomfuls of space in our city landfills.
The struggle against fashion in an environmental-conscious world will never dissipate. But collectively, we can take measures to ensure that the clothes we put in our suitcase are not hurting the planet more than the plane they are put on.