FOMO: HOW THE FAST FASHION INDUSTRY MAKES ITS MONEY
By Tanisha Thomas
Illustration by Lauren Drinkwater
I've loved clothes and fashion since I can remember.
I remember looking through my mum’s fashion magazines and daydreaming about a day when I would fill my own wardrobe with rows upon rows of clothing. But lately I have felt like fashion has become less about style, personality and expression, and increasingly about being part of a fleeting moment.
As the millennial shopper my options for where I can buy clothes seem infinite; even more so since apps such as Depop, The Hunt and 21 Buttons have graced our mobile screens, helping the seekers of style to navigate the fashion market and curate the best wardrobe possible. It was the introduction to these apps that played a huge role in developing my shopping habits. No longer were outfits hard to find or replicate; no longer were the models and influencers I avidly followed an alien entity. Access to their style was in the palm of my hand.
These ‘fashion friendly’ apps make it so easy to buy into the fast fashion industry with almost no consideration for the consequences. This is something that we the consumers aren’t truly at fault for: it is a product of the refined marketing tools that major brands now have to hand. With functions like ‘Instant Buy’ or Instagram’s recent ‘Click to shop’ upgrade, brands can now dangle their offerings right in front of us in the comfort of our own homes, ready to be snapped up; brands supported by influencers that have the power to make affordable high street fashions ‘on trend'.
‘On trend’, a simple phrase that has the power to instil such fear, meaning to be ‘widely talked about’ and ‘currently popular’. It paints a picture of urgency; of something everyone else is doing, and if you don’t join in soon you’ll miss out. Fast fashion outlets, particularly those with a heavy online presence, focus heavily on trends: creating them, driving them, and, most importantly, encouraging you to be a part of them.
Through the introduction of a new trend, our relatively newfound ability access the trend instantly on a next day delivery and the compulsion to show off your participation in the trend on your socials, the fast fashion industry has perfectly captured the feeling of FOMO, and used it against their customers to drive sales. The pull towards online shops can be strong, hard to avoid and easy to justify. I, along with many of my peers, struggle with overspending and budgeting, so if you do too, you’re not alone.
When talking with students about the issue in fast fashion culture Liv, 20, from Bournemouth University shared with me that she’s ‘definitely bought clothing after seeing an Instagram blogger with amazing style promote something - she was clearly partnered with the brand, but I still loved what she was wearing, and when I followed a ‘swipe to shop’ the brand had a sale on. It just makes it way too easy to get carried away and spend too much.’
In the same way photos captioned with ‘#InstaFit’ can spark feelings of envy and insecurity, I was beginning to make unhealthy comparisons between myself and the faces behind my newly curated, fashion-focused feeds. Whether the posts were from friends or influencers, the FOMO was strong. Heather, 20, from Bournemouth University agreed, saying ‘the constant content on socials makes me feel like I’m missing out on something more than just the item itself if I don’t get it quickly, so even if it’s kinda pricey, I’ll go for it because I feel like I need to have it.’
There are many problems with the fast fashion industry, from the subtle blackmailing of consumers to join in on trends with to the utter chaos the industry inflicts on our environment.
A more mindful approach to clothing is needed; a movement away from fast fashion, whether it’s for the sake of your self-esteem, your finances, or the environment. The fast fashion industry simply has too many devastating effects to justify the ease with which it allows us to shop current trends. I’ve noticed a drastic change in my mental wellbeing since shutting myself off from its constant pull, whether that’s by educating myself on the damage it can cause or taking small steps like unfollowing influencers on social media.
Mindfulness in its most simple form would be awareness. It is a sense of being present, and with the aim of taming a shopping habit can be used to assess the potential implications of a purchase and therefore reduce the amount of purchases made. When you’re scrolling through Depop or Instagram and come across something you feel the urge to buy, think about whether you really need it. Build a checklist of things to consider such as:
1. Can you afford it? They say you can only really afford something if you can buy it twice - use this philosophy to limit your spending.
2. Will you wear it enough to justify the purchase? Set yourself a target number - will you wear it that many times?
3. How sustainable is the brand you’re buying from? What are the environmental implications of this purchase?
4. Is the item in your basket is truly something you’ll love and feel great in, or a trend you’re trying to jump on for an Instagram photo modelling the internet’s latest craze?
There’s no shame in wanting to look good and stay on trend, but habits become unhealthy when they produce a negative impact, and even more so when that impact extends beyond the individual. Considering the effects your shopping habits can have and reducing your purchases can have numerous benefits to you and the environment. So, remain proactive and aware in your love for fashion, and shop wisely.
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