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Friday, April 11, 2014

Inside The World Of Fast Fashion

Buildings are reflected in a Forever 21 storefront in Washington, D.C. Forever 21 is the largest fast fashion retailer based in the U.S. (vpickering/Flickr)

Buildings are reflected in a Forever 21 storefront in Washington, D.C. Forever 21 is the largest fast fashion retailer based in the U.S. (vpickering/Flickr)

If you pay any attention to fashion, you know that new styles often make it from the runway to retail clothing racks in what seems like warp speed.

There’s even a term for this phenomenon. It’s called “fast fashion,” and it’s radically changed the cost, quality and risk of producing the clothes we wear.

Christina Moon, assistant professor in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons The New School’s center for Design, has been studying and documenting the families involved in fast fashion.

She joins Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer to explain its impact on our relationship with clothes and design.

Interview Highlights: Christina Moon

On the impact of fast fashion

“It’s really, I think, changed our relationship to clothing. We no longer really go out there to buy things that will last. We really walk into an H&M knowing that what we’ll buy for under $50 or even $15 may not last, may fall apart in the washing machine. You may only wear it once, but it’s okay, because you spent not so much money on it.”

“What’s so remarkable to me about fast fashion is they’re able to have these designs and styles immediately, every single day, on the retail floor. And a lot of the manufacturers I speak to they say that they’ve been able to collapse this very complicated global production, design and production of fast fashion, from what used to be a three-month cycle to now just two weeks.”

On how fast fashion is changing the industry

“What has really changed is now, these manufacturers are actually designing themselves, and so they actually need to have these designs and styles within their warehouses and within their showrooms by the time the retailers actually call, so that when a store like Forever 21 calls up the retailer and says, ‘I received your look book,’ or ‘I looked online to see what new styles you have. I’m gonna order, you know, however many thousands or hundreds of thousands of pieces of this one particular style, in these colors and sizes.’ That manufacturer can say to them, ‘Well, it’s sitting in our warehouse right now. We’ll have it all packed and shipped for you, you know, truck it out by this afternoon.'”

On the families behind fast fashion

“When I actually went out to Los Angeles and started to talk to folks, what I realized was that many of these manufacturers were families. And it turns out that you have two generations, normally, working within the business. You have an older generation, the parents, many of whom who’ve had two to three decades of experience actually manufacturing garments, but what they really lacked was a sense of fashion. And that’s where kids come in. What I thought was so fascinating was to see the coming together of these two generations. You have, on one hand, an older generation who knows everything about the actual garment, has connections to different factories across the world. And then you have this younger generation with perfect English, perfect language skills and quote-unquote an American sensibility. They have knowledge of the fashion world, they have knowledge of design, of what’s trendy.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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