Why Is It Taking So Long To Break The Addiction To Fast Fashion?

In today’s world, we expect access to everything at the touch or swipe of a screen. The Millennial and Gen Z generations were raised with internet access, and the world in the palm of our hands. Because of this, we’ve been exposed to so much more at a much younger age and at a faster rate. The amount of data and advertising we are exposed to is exponentially higher than that of our older counterparts, and because of this, our shopping habits have changed drastically. This, paired with the infectious desire to keep up with trends and image of higher social standing that our society has embedded in us has created the perfect storm for an addiction to fast fashion.
In a spending report by Salesfloor, it’s been evidenced that Baby Boomers seek convenience. However, this convenience is a bit different than that of their kids and grandchildren. The report states that 84% of Boomers would prefer the experience of shopping in a retail store for new products. They have a greater disposable income than younger generations, but prefer to browse and understand the products they buy rather than spend impulsively. While they’re not shy to online spending, their preferences lie in the experience with sales specialists and understanding the value of a product. Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, represents 31% of US income. Their large spending power is protected by their skeptical view of marketing techniques, and won’t spend as easily as the generation below them. They’re willing to research a product and stretch their dollar, as this is certainly a generation who has lived through a number of recessions and economic uncertainties, as well as the rise of instant gratification.
On the other hand, Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are much more influenced by word-of-mouth, celebrity, and mass-advertising. Because of how conditioned younger generations are to being sold something in the palm of their hands, it comes as no surprise that the rise of influencer marketing through online social platforms has widely impacted spending habits. Because of this, younger consumers are simply used to the fact that new products are sold to them at such a rapid speed. We haven’t known fashions designed to last a decade the way the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s have. Instead, we’re presented with a decade’s worth of new trends within the span of months. Though younger generations expect everything at the touch of a button through online shopping, it’s quite ironic that the even younger Gen Z actually prefers in-store shopping. Why? Because of the instant gratification of actually buying something and taking it home with you, without the wait or cost of shipping. With stores like Zara who have mastered their supply chain to get a product from design inspiration to market in as little as 2 weeks, the demands of consumers’ fashion attention spans are what’s driving the market.
We know that this kind of behavior is dangerous. The danger lies mostly in the economic cost and the overall psychological impact of overconsumption. However, low prices and a steepening wealth inequality in America continues to fuel this addictive shopping cycle for younger generations. Recent data has shown that a shrinking middle class, who have been hit with two recessions in their young adult lives, will take a psychological toll. It will be interesting to see if Millennials and Gen Z will end up like Gen X- skeptical of big business marketing tactics and more reserved in their disposable income. Because we’ve grown up in a market in which all we know has mostly been affordable, trend-focused clothing, it will be up to our and future generations to demand more slow-moving products and life cycles. It will also be in our own self interest to stop supporting these fast-paced fashion factories because it will decrease expenses while training ourselves to shop more consciously.
By Adi Shoham