Fast Fashion in the Philippines Retail Market

June 8, 2022

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The fashion industry used to introduce new trends every season before the invention of the internet. Fast Fashion is now developed by releasing collections every week and producing them immediately after release.

Fast Fashion is defined as mass-market retailers producing inexpensive clothing rapidly. Fashion trends are usually utilized in these collections, from catwalk shows, celebrities, or cool street styles gaining popularity on social media. ‘Fast Fashion’ refers to these trends being brought to consumers promptly and at an affordable price. Even the cotton growth cycle is manipulated to meet consumers’ demands for new fashions and the industry’s thirst for profits in this fast-paced world.

The rise of Fast Fashion in the Philippines

Large retail chains such as Zara, Uniqlo, and Forever21 have infiltrated our malls, and cheap, low-quality mass-produced Fashion is flooding our retail shops.

The Filipinos have traditionally followed a ‘tiangge’ culture (a phrase meaning flea market or bazaar). However, because these retail outlets don’t usually keep their stock updated like fast fashion outlets, Filipinos are happy to embrace this trend.

The Philippines also prefers imported clothing and accessories to locally-produced clothing and accessories sold at tiangges since imported Fashion is more appealing and seen as a superior quality to local fare. From 2000 to 2014 alone, the average consumer bought 60 percent more clothing from these global brands.

The Expendable Fast Fashion

Globally, people consume about 62 million tonnes of clothing each year. However, only 20 percent of these are reused or recycled. Most of the rest is incinerated or disposed of. According to a recent study, one-third of Filipinos have thrown away their cheap clothing after using it only once because of the weekly changing fashion trends. It might be considered disposable Fashion as well.

According to a YouGov Omnibus survey, Filipino adults threw away 65 percent of their clothes in 2017.

Fast Fashion not only pollutes the environment with its toxic chemicals; it also fills up our dumpsites.

At the same time, during the current water shortage in the Philippines, fashion production consumes a considerable amount of natural resources. In the case of a cotton shirt, 2,700 liters of water are required, which is enough for three years of drinking.

It’s important to remember the people behind the clothes. Companies in the fast fashion industry outsource manufacturing to developing countries where their employees receive low wages and are typically forced to work in unsafe environments with little labor protection. More than 1,100 people were killed and more than 2,500 injured in the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, a fashion documentary called The True Cost uncovered the invisible side of Fashion. According to the film, fast Fashion is often associated with unethical labor practices, including human exploitation and forced labor, locking employees in buildings and threatening them with docking their pay and dumping them.

Philippine Fashion that is ethical and sustainable

The Philippines have created sustainable and ethical alternatives to Fast Fashion, such as clothing stores that make clothes that are ‘slower,’ minimize the impact on the environment, use fewer toxic chemicals and pay workers a living wage to combat the Fast-Fashion crisis.

Rags2Riches is one such business, reusing waste materials and hiring local artisans to produce bags and other woven accessories. To partner with artisans, R2R will provide financial empowerment for them and opportunities for sustainable incomes.

The Siklo Pilipinas recycling program creates stylish and functional bags and accessories from used tires, and Lumago Designs creates jewelry and accessories from soda can tabs.

Philippines second-hand shops

The Philippines has always been home to Ukay-Ukay shops. “Ukay” derives from the term halukay, which means to dig. The Ukay-Ukay shop is like the thrift stores of the Philippines; it sells second-hand clothes and accessories, and shoppers are required to dig deep enough into a messy pile of clothing to find unique finds.

Philippines Fashion Revolution Week

Ninety-three countries are part of the Fashion Revolution, including the Philippines.

Fashion Revolution Week took place from April 22 to 28, 2019. The Swedish Embassy in Manila hopes to promote sustainability in Fashion and raise awareness of fast Fashion by exhibiting Fashion Revolution: The Future of Textiles for three months at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

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