Often singled out for having harmful effects on the environment, fast fashion has been trying to reduce its impact with many initiatives involving capsules with more sustainable production. Is it genuine commitment to the cause or greenwashing? Everyone has their own opinion on the matter, but one thing seems certain, Gen Z is not about to give up on this fashion that is described as disposable, as evidenced by one of the latest hashtags trending ferociously on TikTok: #BamaRush.
Times are hard for many in fast fashion, where some brands' opaque production lines and environmental impact raise questions and spark critique throughout the world. And not much seems to be changing despite the rollout of various initiatives aimed at reversing the trend, or at least reducing the negative effects of such production processes. More sustainable materials, recycling, local manufacturing... are they having a real effect? Disposable or ephemeral fashion, depending on the situation, continues to attract the wrath of a section of consumers, and even more of activists.
The latest is none other than Greta Thunberg who, in Vogue Scandinavia, says "Many make it look as if the fashion industry is starting to take responsibility, spending fantasy amounts on campaigns portraying themselves as 'sustainable,' 'ethical,' 'green,' 'climate neutral' or 'fair. But let's be clear: This is almost never anything but pure greenwash." There's no ambivalence. And if we look at the figures and surveys concerning ethical fashion, second-hand, or sustainable fashion, which show since the beginning of the pandemic that consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact of the industry on the environment, we could easily come to the conclusion that fast fashion is living its last moments. But all that is without taking into account a certain generation, Gen Z, which is much more complex than it seems.
Designers + fast fashion, the new mix and match?
"This generation is so complex and difficult to read that brands are simultaneously fascinated by it and seeking information to understand it," Eric Briones , co-founder Paris School of Luxury and author of the book "Le choc Z" (The Z Shock) told us in March. "They require brands to be faultless on ecological issues, but when it comes to how they use fashion -- fast fashion is still part of it." Something that is confirmed by the latest figures presented by Kolsquare, which indicate that the fast fashion giants largely dominate the discussions on social networks.
And the success of the #BamaRush hashtag isn't proving otherwise. The University of Alabama's sorority recruitment week was indeed a huge success on TikTok this year, with the hashtags #BamaRush (380 million views) and #AlabamaRush (75 million views), showing up in short videos of students explaining why they want to join such or such sorority. And in the middle of these speeches, we discover all the outfits of the day -- yes, there are many -- displayed by the sorority girls, who take pride in listing the brands associated with each garment or accessory. Information that we find this time under the hashtag #BamaRushootd or #Rushootd (for Outfit of the day) -- yes, you have to keep up.
And, surprise, surprise, fast fashion is highly present with brands like Shein, ultra-popular in many of the videos posted, as well as The Pants Store, Amazon, Princess Polly and Pretty Little Thing. But beware, this is not just an ode to disposable fashion, since the students are playing the mix and match game by combining fast fashion and designer brands, including LoveShackFancy, Michael Kors, and Kendra Scott, which, by the way, are also benefiting from the views.
While many might say that these thousands of videos alone cannot define the future of fashion, they do show a generation that juggles brands from a variety of backgrounds. For ethical fashion, we'll probably have to wait for a future "rush" and a generation that is not about to give up, whatever its commitments, on a more accessible and smarter fashion. But once again, it's hard to predict.