Local Production, the upcoming Anti-Fashion

By Pavel Veraza Tonda

The economic growth of the fast fashion industry has been exponential: clothing consumption is more dependent than ever on its brands, and the culture of the individual creative designer at the forefront of the firm has declined in favor of corporate design. Designers, often underpaid, engage in widespread plagiarism of designs from other eras or source garments from second-hand markets or more exclusive brands to keep up with the relentless pace demanded by fast fashion. For instance, Zara alone releases 12,000 new designs each year and 24 collections. The material dimension of this economic growth attests to colossal gigantism: industry brands produce almost double the amount of clothing as before the year 2000 and nearly twice as many collections per year. Fast fashion offers such low prices that consumers have become more dependent than ever on its offerings, leading to an exponential increase in textile waste due to the short lifespan of products caused by low material quality and rapid design obsolescence.

The industrial model of fast fashion thrives by taking advantage of the environmental and wage deregulation in the countries where it shifts its production, deindustrializing more regulated regions like the European Union, the origin of several of its brands. The health damage to workers and consumers due to the numerous toxins used by this industry and the resulting pollution of land and water has reached unprecedented levels, as has the exploitation of workers. According to UN data, the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, surpassed only by the oil industry.

What does the current dynamic of the fashion industry reveal? The historical moment marked by the hegemony of fast fashion can be characterized by Walter Benjamin’s concept of a “moment of danger.” The past of clothing, reduced to its images, is exploited in favor of the apparent novelty of the ever-new succession of fast fashion seasons, repeatedly canceling any alternative future for clothing beyond unrestrained productivity and consumerism. The production demands ecological sacrifice and sacrifices workers’ health and economy, barely concealing its criminal nature by hiding behind the lack of regulation in the production countries, from which corrupt governments profit. These sacrifices also include the creativity of design and craftsmanship, along with the material culture of societies, as artisanal work becomes increasingly confined to the limited luxury market, detached from local contexts and more dependent on the demands of industrialized countries and their tastes. It is time to generate global dynamics of slow fashion that counteract these sacrifices and usher in another historical time for garment production — the era of anti-fashion, guided by local and self-managed work. Far from adhering to the pace of planned obsolescence, this approach prioritizes the creation of enduring pieces.