Ultra-fast fashion amplifies the drawbacks of fast fashion to an extreme level. It features highly fashionable garments at extremely low prices, with new collections released every few weeks. While satisfying the craving for instant gratification, genuine repercussions extend far beyond the monetary cost.

Ultra-fast fashion
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What is Ultra-Fast Fashion?

Ultra-fast fashion refers to an accelerated model within the fashion industry characterised by highly rapid production and turnover of clothing collections. It emphasises speed and novelty, with new styles introduced and made available for purchase at a frenetic pace, often on a weekly or even daily basis.

Brands like Shein, Temu, and Cider abandon traditional seasonal collections, opting for a constant stream of micro-trends. This allows them to capitalise on fleeting styles and maximise profits.

This model typically involves the replication of trends from high-end designers or popular culture and the quick dissemination of these trends to mass-market retailers at extremely low prices.

Ultra-Fast Fashion: Feeding the Frenzy, Fuelled by Waste

  1. Consumption on overdrive

Ultra-fast fashion thrives on constantly churning out clothes based on fleeting trends.

Fashion brands are capitalising on the evolving business landscape, leveraging the immense impact of social media and influencers on consumer lifestyles and shopping habits. Social media is a major driver, with influencers showcasing the latest looks and making clothes feel disposable.


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At the heart of its marketing strategy, Shein, the foremost player in ultra-fast fashion, leverages influencers and their #SHEINhaul videos. The brand collaborates with numerous micro-celebrities, and  fashion bloggers who showcase their Shein deliveries to their followers. The brand is the most-mentioned brand on TikTok, far surpassing Netflix, which came in second.

This trend encourages people to buy more, wear less, and discard clothes quickly, leading to another issue: overflowing landfills.

  1. Environmental Fallout  

One of the primary concerns of overconsumption in ultra-fast fashion is its significant contribution to environmental degradation.

The fashion industry is now considered the second most polluting after oil extraction and production; ultra-fast fashion makes it worse. According to Shein’s COO, Molly Miao, in 2022, the brand released 700 to 1,000 new items a day.

Ultra-fast Fashion
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The relentless production of cheap garments leads to heightened resource extraction, energy consumption, and waste generation. From the sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing processes and transportation, each stage of the fashion supply chain leaves a substantial carbon footprint.

Cheap clothes often rely on synthetic fabrics derived from fossil fuels, and the dyeing process uses massive amounts of water and chemicals.

Additionally, the disposal of unwanted clothing adds to the mounting problem of textile waste in landfills, primarily synthetic fibres that can take hundreds of years to decompose.

  1. Human Cost

The human cost behind these ultra-cheap clothes is deeply troubling. It relies heavily on factories with a notorious reputation for exploitative practices. Workers work in hazardous conditions for minimal pay, frequently working long hours merely to cover their basic needs.

Further, the very speed and low price point of this fashion trend raise serious concerns about worker well-being and potential violations of labour rights. Independent watchdogs paint a grim picture, confirming widespread labour abuses.

Ultra-fast fashion, Shein
Garment workers in a factory that supplies Shein in Guangzhou China Image Source JADE GAOAFPGETTY IMAGES

An undercover investigation into Shein in 2021 revealed that workers producing clothes for the brand were labouring for over 75 hours per week and were granted only one day off per month. These workers were often assigned to multiple tasks and received compensation as low as 4 cents per item produced.

Despite assurances from Shein to enhance working conditions, according to the latest report from the BBC, workers at certain suppliers of the company continue to work 75 hours per week. Thus, it highlights a troubling issue that persists within the company.

  1. The Cycle of Ultra-Fast Fashion Fatigue

Overconsumption in ultra-fast fashion perpetuates a culture of dissatisfaction and overindulgence among consumers. The constant influx of new collections creates a cycle of “fast fashion fatigue,” where garments lose their value and novelty almost as quickly as they are purchased.

This not only strains individual finances but also fosters a mindset of constant consumption and dissatisfaction with one’s wardrobe.

Ultra-fast fashion
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This trend also can lead to fashion commitment issues. While having limitless options could lead to happiness, research suggests otherwise. Additionally, the abundance of choices can lead to “choice paralysis,” where individuals struggle to make decisions due to fear of missing out or making the wrong choice. This fear, known as FOMO, stems from the brain’s attempt to protect against potential missed opportunities, but it often results in feelings of overwhelm and indecision.

Alternatives for a Sustainable Future

Addressing the problem of overconsumption in ultra-fast fashion requires a multifaceted approach.

On the consumer’s side, they can make more mindful purchasing decisions by prioritising quality over quantity, opting for sustainable and ethically produced clothing, and embracing a less-is-more mentality.

On the other hand, fashion brands must adopt responsible practices by prioritising fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect for worker well-being throughout the supply chain.

Besides that, brands need to be transparent about production processes and sourcing. Consumers have a right to know where their clothes come from and how they’re made. Moreover, brands should consider embracing circularity. Move away from a linear model and incorporate recycled materials into production.

In conclusion, the discussion surrounding ultra-fast fashion underscores profound ethical and environmental issues and paints an ugly picture of the current state of the fashion industry.

Credit: TikTok @stylewithdana
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