Fast Fashion Facts And Statistics

48 Fast Fashion Facts And Statistics In 2024

Today, Shein, the biggest fast fashion brand, is valued at $100 billion, which is more than H&M and Zara’s values put together.

Fast fashion is now a stand-alone market with the one of highest growth prospects of the global consumer market.

To understand this fast-evolving market, we gathered a myriad of relevant fast fashion facts, statistics, trends and market data from the industry authorities.

In this statistic roundup, you’ll learn about:

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Read also our articles about Clean Beauty Statistics, and Sustainable Fashion Certifications & Labels You Can Trust.

Editor Pick

  • During the 1960s, the average American bought less than 25 clothing items a year. Nowadays, the average American is purchasing nearly 70 clothing items annually, which is more than one item per week.

  • In 1990, the United States made about 50% of the clothing its consumers purchased. By the 2000s, the U.S. only made about 2% of the clothing its consumers bought.

  • Shein’s value escalated to $100 billion, surpassing H&M and Zara combined. 

  • Our society has shifted from repairing to replacing items, leading to increased consumption.

  • The fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for 8-10% of global emissions.

  • Annually, the fashion industry produces 92 million tons of textile waste.

  • Studies have found that the demand for goods in Western Europe and the United States contributes to over 100,000 premature deaths in China due to industrial air pollution.

  • Many brands use petroleum-based synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon in their clothes. These fibers account for 35% of the microplastics in our oceans and take centuries to break down in landfills.

  • In 2023, the fast fashion industry is valued at $123 billion globally and is expected to increase to $185 billion by 2027.

  • According to the Global Footprint Network, if everyone lived like the average American, we would need five Earths to support this lifestyle

  • About 75 million people, or 1% of the world’s population, work in the garment and textile industry, with women making up 75% of this workforce. Less than 2% of these 75 million garment workers earn a living wage.

  • 73% of millennials worldwide said they’d pay more for sustainable products, a number likely to increase as their incomes grow.

1. The Rise of Fast Fashion

  • During the 1960s, the average American bought less than 25 clothing items a year. Nowadays, the average American is purchasing nearly 70 clothing items annually, which is more than one item per week.
  • In 1990, the United States made about 50% of the clothing its consumers purchased. By the 2000s, the U.S. only made about 2% of the clothing its consumers bought.
  • Fast fashion became popular in the 1990s, with retailers offering trendy, low-cost, low-quality clothes weekly to match rapidly changing fashion trends. Fast fashion’s business model, made popular by Zara’s founder Amancio Ortega, quickly produces clothes to match the latest fashion trends.
  • In 2015, the documentary “The True Cost” by Andrew Morgan was released, highlighting the impact of fast fashion.
  • During the recent pandemic, consumers shifted from traditional fast fashion stores like H&M and Zara to online brands like Shein and Asos. Shein’s value escalated to $100 billion, surpassing H&M and Zara combined. This shift intensified both the scale of fast fashion and its environmental impact.
  • Brands like Shein, Fashion Nova, and PLT are even less expensive than H&M and Zara, which now seem more environmentally friendly in comparison.
  • Our society has shifted from repairing to replacing items, leading to increased consumption.

2. Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

  • The fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for 8-10% of global emissions.
  • Annually, the fashion industry produces 92 million tons of textile waste.
  • Since 1999, humans have used billions of metric tons more resources than the Earth can sustainably provide. The main reason is our excessive consumption of low-quality items, like poorly made tools and fast fashion that quickly becomes waste.
  • Studies have found that the demand for goods in Western Europe and the United States contributes to over 100,000 premature deaths in China due to industrial air pollution.
  • The production of polyester has tripled since 2000 to nearly 60 million tons a year. In contrast, silk and wool use has decreased, and cotton use has only moderately increased.
  • Many brands use petroleum-based synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon in their clothes. These fibers account for 35% of the microplastics in our oceans and take centuries to break down in landfills.
  • According to a Environmental Protection Agency report, 66% of discarded clothes end up in landfills each year, and another 19% are burned.
  • Last year, over 20 billion pairs of shoes were made worldwide, and nearly 300 million of them were thrown away in the U.S. alone. Shoes, often made of rubber sourced from trees in Thailand, Indonesia, China, and West Africa, take 30 to 40 years to decompose in landfills. Some materials in sneakers, like ethylene vinyl acetate, can last up to 1,000 years in landfills.
  • An investigation by Marketplace revealed that among 38 tested Shein clothes samples, 20% contained high levels of harmful chemicals. These included substances such as lead, PFAS, and phthalates.
  • A 2022 New York Times investigation revealed that leather from cattle involved in Amazon deforestation was being used in car seats in the United States.
  • Nonprofit organization Transparentem has exposed numerous abuses in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh, an area with more than 150 tanneries. These abuses include extremely polluted working conditions and severe environmental damage. Transparentem discovered that these tanneries produce shoes and bags for well-known brands such as Clarks, Coach, Kate Spade, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Sears, Steven Madden, and Timberland.

3. Economic Aspects of Fast Fashion

  • In 2023, the fast fashion industry is valued at $123 billion globally and is expected to increase to $185 billion by 2027.

  • Shein’s worth has soared to $100 billion, surpassing the combined value of H&M and Zara.

  • Shein offers the lowest prices for women’s clothing among U.S. fast-fashion retailers. On average, dresses cost $15.74 on Shein, compared to Zara’s $48.19. For outerwear, Shein’s average price is $19.72, much lower than H&M’s $51.22 and Zara’s $78.27.

  • A 2022 survey showed that most fast fashion purchases in the U.S. are made online, with nearly half of the buyers shopping on the internet, while 35 percent buy in physical stores.

  • About 20 percent of the global population uses 80 percent of the world’s natural resources.

  • Buying a $50 T-shirt worn once a week for a year costs less than $1 per wear, cheaper than a $10 T-shirt worn only twice, which costs $5 per wear.

  • According to the Global Footprint Network, if everyone lived like the average American, we would need five Earths to support this lifestyle. The average GDP in this scenario would be over $60,000, but in reality, 10 percent of Americans hold 70 percent of the nation’s wealth.

4. Social Implications of Fast Fashion

  • About 75 million people, or 1% of the world’s population, work in the garment and textile industry, with women making up 75% of this workforce.

  • Less than 2% of these 75 million garment workers earn a living wage, based on data from 2017 by an advocacy group.

  • Ten years ago in Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed, killing 1,134 and injuring over 2,500 workers.

  • The average garment worker earns just about half of what is needed for a decent standard of living.
  • In Bangladesh, the minimum monthly wage for a garment worker is around $75, which is less than $3 a day. This makes it hard for many workers to afford basic necessities like meat.

  • Transparentem, a nonprofit investigative group, has revealed various abuses in the supply chains of many companies, including forced labor, child labor, and highly polluted working conditions.

  • Brands often rely on auditors to find violations in factories, but these audits are typically brief, unreliable, and can be manipulated, as found by Transparentem. Suppliers with very low profit margins cannot afford to lose customers.

  • Shein faced investigations for labor violations.

  • In 2022, hundreds of thousands of garment workers globally protested for better wages and working conditions as they faced the impacts of inflation and order cancellations.

5. Fashion Alternatives and Sustainable Practices

  • Fast fashion fundamentally conflicts with sustainable practices.

  • In 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped the import of products worth $816.5 million, a significant increase from $55 million in 2020, to prevent the entry of goods made with forced labor, including garments.

  • Brands use auditors to find violations in factories but often ask the factories to pay for these audits themselves. These audits are usually brief, unreliable, and can be manipulated, as discovered by Transparentem. Factories, working with very little profit margin, cannot risk losing customers. In order to avoid false audits, brands should pay for the audit themselves.

  • A crucial step for improvement: All apparel and footwear companies should join the Commitment to Responsible Recruitment, promising that their suppliers’ workers won’t have to pay for jobs (which can lead to forced labor) and will keep their travel documents and freedom of movement.

  • The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, with its Higg Index used by companies like Walmart, Nike, and H&M Group, was a key sustainability group in fashion. However, its credibility was questioned when Norway’s regulators and a Quartz investigation found its environmental claims insufficient and misleading. It’s time for a tool with more accuracy.

  • In May 2023, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the FABRIC Act in the U.S. for better labor protections and manufacturing incentives. 

  • In November 2022, the European Commission proposed new rules to reduce packaging waste, impacting products like e-commerce packaging.

  • A report by the Changing Markets Foundation revealed that many brands still heavily rely on synthetic materials while claiming to increase sustainable materials use.

  • In 2018, the U.N.F.C.C.C. launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, setting goals like net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. At COP26 in Glasgow, this was updated to aim for halving emissions by 2030. Currently, around 150 brands and organizations support this initiative.
  • Future Trends and Predictions: There’s a growing trend of vintage and thrift stores. Younger generations are becoming more conscious about sustainability. 73% of millennials worldwide said they’d pay more for sustainable products, a number likely to increase as their incomes grow. Many millennials and Gen Z-ers use websites like Poshmark and Depop to buy and sell used clothing, aiming to avoid fast fashion.

  • Shein’s Expansion: Shein, an online retailer from China, is partnering with Forever 21’s parent company to increase its presence in the U.S. market. This partnership might lead to Shein operating sections in Forever 21 stores and selling Forever 21 products on its website. In 2022, Shein became the world’s most popular fashion brand, surpassing Zara in global Google searches.

  • Patagonia’s Environmental Commitment: Patagonia has been supporting environmental causes since 1985, donating 1% of its sales. Recently, its founder Yvon Chouinard gave the company to a nonprofit group. This move ensures that all of Patagonia’s profits, around $100 million annually, fund global conservation efforts.

  • Royal Sustainable Fashion: The Princess of Wales has recently rented a green dress for a public event, highlighting sustainable fashion choices.

  • Sustainable Reforms Needed: According to Vivian Frick, a sustainability researcher, solving environmental problems requires long-term reforms and industry revolutions. Shifting to a low-carbon society, using fewer natural resources, and focusing on necessary production can help restore biodiversity, reduce pollution, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

List Of The Biggest Fast Fashion Brands

  • H&M (Hennes & Mauritz)
  • Zara (owned by Inditex)
  • Uniqlo (owned by Fast Retailing)
  • Forever 21
  • Shein
  • Primark
  • Topshop (now owned by ASOS)
  • Mango
  • Fashion Nova
  • GAP
  • ASOS
  • Boohoo
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Pull & Bear (also part of Inditex)
  • Bershka (another Inditex brand)

Is Cider Fast Fashion?

Cider is considered a fast fashion brand. It offers trendy clothing at affordable prices, with quick turnover of styles, which aligns with the fast fashion model.

Is Zara Fast Fashion?

Yes, Zara is a well-known fast fashion brand. It is part of the Inditex group and is recognized for rapidly producing and cycling through fashion trends.

Is Cider Like Shein?

Cider and Shein have similarities in that they both operate within the fast fashion industry, offering trendy clothing at affordable prices with a rapid turnover of styles. However, each brand has its own business model and practices.

Is Brandy Melville Fast Fashion?

Brandy Melville is considered part of the fast fashion industry. It offers trendy, affordable clothing with a quick turnaround, which aligns with the fast fashion model.

Why is Shein Bad?

Criticism of Shein centers around several issues common in the fast fashion industry:
Labor Practices: Concerns about the working conditions and fair pay in factories.
Environmental Impact: The fast production cycle and use of non-sustainable materials contribute to waste and pollution.
Quality and Durability: Products may have issues with quality and longevity.
Intellectual Property Concerns: Allegations of copying designs from other designers and brands.

List Of Alternative Sustainable Brands

  • Patagonia – Outdoor clothing and gear. Known for its commitment to environmental sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices.

  • Reformation – Women’s clothing and accessories. Focuses on sustainable materials and eco-friendly production processes.

  • Stella McCartney – High-end fashion, accessories, and footwear. A pioneer in sustainable luxury fashion, using eco-friendly materials.

  • Pact – Organic cotton basics and essentials for men, women, and children. Focus on fair trade and sustainable manufacturing.

  • Veja – Sneakers and shoes. Uses sustainable materials like organic cotton and wild rubber, and focuses on fair trade practices.

  • People Tree – Women’s clothing and accessories. A fair trade fashion pioneer, known for sustainable and ethical production.

  • Girlfriend Collective – Activewear, primarily made from recycled materials. Known for inclusivity in sizing and sustainable practices.

  • Nudie Jeans – Ethically made denim products. Offers free repair services, resells second-hand products, and uses organic cotton.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1237898/fast-and-second-hand-fashion-market-growth-in-the-us/
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1008241/fast-fashion-market-value-forecast-worldwide/
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1388212/fast-fashion-shoppers-share-online-in-store-usa/
  4. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1342904/fast-fashion-retailers-prices-united-states/
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1094176/european-fast-fashion-brands-ranked-by-revenue/
  6. https://www.globallivingwage.org/industries/garment-textile/
  7. https://bangladeshaccord.org/
  8. https://cleanclothes.org/campaigns/the-accord/brand-tracker
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/24/opinion/fast-fashion-apparel-worker-conditions-rana-plaza.html
  10. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/20/fashion/fast-fashion-sustainable-clothing.html
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/23/opinion/patagonia-environnment-fast-fashion.html
  12. https://www.popsci.com/environment/overconsumption-sustainability-climate/
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/22/learning/how-fast-fashion-became-faster-and-worse-for-the-earth.html
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/25/opinion/warehouse-fastfashion-return.html
  15. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/02/business/shein-fast-fashion.html
  16. https://www.shutdownshein.com/
  17. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/24/business/shein-forever-21.html
  18. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/28/fashion/eight-important-moments-in-responsible-fashion-this-year.html
  19. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/07/style/redefining-sustainable-fashion.html
  20. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/12/climate/vegan-leather-synthetics-fashion-industry.html
  21. https://changingmarkets.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/SyntheticsAnonymous_FinalWeb.pdf
  22. https://stories.publiceye.ch/en/shein/#group-section-The-Delivery-mOCgpYy0bl
  23. https://truecostmovie.com/
  24. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data#TextilesTableandGraph
  25. https://css.umich.edu/publications/factsheets/sustainability-indicators/us-environmental-footprint-factsheet
  26. https://www.statista.com/statistics/275387/global-natural-rubber-production/
  27. https://apnews.com/article/57003bedd3ae4e3e9d1633cf50effc31
  28. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-60382624
  29. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-fast-fashion-chemicals-1.6193385

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