Are fast fashion clothes really cheaply made?


I recently read Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline. It made me aware of the environmental impact of our clothes consumption and provided great insights in how our discarded clothes are processed. However, I found recurring statements of how all fast fashion clothes are cheap and tear apart at their seams after one wash  or two a total exaggeration made just to support the author’s points against fast fashion.

I believe that it is not clothes from fast fashion that are the problem but rather the rate at which we consume them which is the issue.

So, what are the alternatives if fast fashion clothes are so poorly made? Invest $500 every single time I need or want some piece of clothing? Many people clearly cannot afford that and I do not wish to waste my money like that. I do not like thrifting and buying other people’s clothes and there aren’t many good thrifting options in Asia.

I do not think that fast fashion clothes are the only ones made cheaply and that higher end branded stuff are constructed in a much better fashion. Maybe in some aspects but overall there is not much difference in terms of cloth quality. Branded stuff is overpriced just because of the brand. Also, so many high-end brands manufacture mostly in China which is also what fast fashion chains do.

I am actually happy that fast fashion exists because it makes clothing affordable for all. However it is a tad annoying that I cannot find something I liked 2 weeks later because they changed their inventory. 

Most of my clothes are from fast fashion chains mentioned in the book – Uniqlo, H&M, Old Navy, Target and the likes. I do agree that there are some clothes that are flimsily made but I do not buy those.

Almost all of the clothes I have bought from these stores have easily lasted me well over 2 years and some are still in use. 

A lot of them cost me less than $30, some even less than $15. People would naturally take better care of stuff they spent $500 on than they would of something  they spend $20 on. I do not see why I should turn up my nose at perfectly good clothes just because they are fast fashion. None of the high-end brands are into supporting environment or being ethical but into classism and snobbishness – things I do not want to support. 

Also, if you were to check out Greenpeace’s Detox the Catwalk Campaign, you would observe that it is the high-end brands that are not into moving towards ethical fashion.

At the same time, my purchasing habits are an anomaly because I lean towards minimalism. I mainly buy new clothes when I go to the USA (Hello Target and Old Navy) or India and not so often here unless I need something specific or find something I really love. So, in a way I support fast fashion stores but I don’t buy things all the time and really don’t follow trends.

I am getting tired of all these anti-fast-fashion advocates harping on how clothes fall apart in 1 or 2 wears because they do not.  I have known some expensive Italian shoes (Salvatore Ferragamo) falling apart within months as well.

My $10 shoes from Target lasted me well over 1.5 years until they wore off. My $30 wallet lasted me well over 3 years. It is not always you get what you pay for. Why the hell would I spend $2000 on a Prada wallet unless I want to be “seen” with a particular brand and appear snobbish elite when Prada also makes its stuff in China. 

You want to be ethical in purchasing clothes? Buy less and research on ethical clothing companies. However, do not beat yourself up if you can only afford clothes from fast fashion chains because they aren’t that bad when chosen well.

4 thoughts on “Are fast fashion clothes really cheaply made?

  1. I think you’re right in that people probably think that if you buy an expensive item you would take better care of it than a cheaper item! Like, hand wash it or give it an expensive dryclean instead of just throw it in the washing machine!
    But, you’re absolutely right that all the clothes I’ve bought have lasted me at least a couple of years, if not more! It’s just a question of how well we maintain our stuff!

  2. Love it, target-jai ho. I buy almost all my kids clothes from old navy, their sweatshirts lasts teenage boys 2 yrs and are still strong and warm . The kids simply outgrow them. As for my 15$skirt from target , I’ve been wearing it every summer for 10 yrs… Still looks good, a bit tight but I can’t blame target for that.

    My 30$kohls bag is not wearing out at all. Yet my gifted 200$ coach bag looks like trash after it’s been on a trip to India…

    But what you need when you need and you will do fine. I agree with you 100%

  3. Thank you. Recently, I was in a mall in Indonesia with a colleague and she mentioned she could just smell the cheap clothes. Till such time, I had never noticed cheap clothes had a cheap smell, though expensive clothes do have an expensive smell. Nor after that observation could I detect any particular smell hanging on to cheap clothes. This just sounds like a new round of elitism. I have heard similar discourse around “fake” bags; that there’s slave labour making them. But I’ve also heard that the fake bags are just excess from the same factories that the designer ones are made at, made with the same labour, and that sounds plausible given the quality of some of the fakes (fairly good quality). Everything now seems to be produced in the same places, starting with China.

    I buy at a price point I can afford and I try to buy clothes that last. I have found some ‘cheap’ clothes to be very longlasting.

    Moreover, I know several people who do not buy cheap clothes and who tend to consume and throw away more than me. The problem seems to be more with throwaway culture than with the cheapness of cheap clothes?

    1. Exactly. It is just plain elitism. Often they say, you get what you pay for but really does spending 2000 on a prada wallet make my $30 wallet last any less. I have had the same $30 wallet for almost 3 years until it wore down.

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