Millions of Americans, specifically those born around or after the year 2000, have never inhabited a world without fast fashion. They became shoppers at the height of its boom: Retailers like ASOS drop at least 5,000 new styles a week, and Shein offers 700 to 1,000 new styles daily. And while these young shoppers are increasingly wary of the evils of fast fashion, they have little room to protest. They buy what’s available, and what’s available is generally fast.
This pace is a relatively modern innovation. Garment production has quietly accelerated to breakneck speeds over the past three decades, easing young and old consumers into thinking of their clothes as disposable. It began in the 1990s, so the story goes, when the founder of Zara spun the fast fashion wheel into motion. Zara abandoned the concept of fashion seasons for the thrill of constant novelty.