Fast fashion is an increasingly relevant issue in society today. The introduction of social media into mainstream pop culture has led to more world-connectedness making the newest fashion trends cycle faster and faster. The ever-changing popularity of outfits might not seem like such a big deal at first—after all, trying new styles is fun—but then, you start to wonder… How can companies produce new clothing so fast, yet sell it for so cheap?
The answer, unfortunately, is a complete disregard for ethics. The cheap and readily available clothing that fits the newest trends is so convenient, especially for teenagers, that there’s an astounding lack of awareness regarding the harm of fast fashion. From sweatshops to poorly made clothing that falls apart after five washes, fast fashion is extremely hurtful and wasteful. After the clothing is made, worn, and soon after, torn, the quality makes it unsalvageable, leading to a majority of clothing being thrown into the garbage. Fast fashion creates much larger harm to both humans and the environment than it seems on the surface.
The situation sounds dire, and that’s because it is. 92 million tons of textile waste is being generated each year—around 7% of all the waste in landfills—and it’s not projected to get better. So how can we fix this? It might seem hard, as an individual, to make any sort of impact to counter the harm of fast fashion, but that’s where high fashion comes in.
From designer brands to individual creators, high fashion artists make art out of clothing and give each article a purpose. Because high fashion pieces are made by hand, there’s a lot of emphasis on the use, structure, and quality of the items, as well as their uniqueness. Single high fashion pieces are worn throughout decades, not just thrown away after a few washes. The material found on runways worldwide is high quality, made with the intention of re-wearing. Showing up in the same outfit as someone else can be seen as a fashion statement (think Kim Kardashian wearing one of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dresses for the Met Gala), and there’s less of a struggle to keep up with the newest trends.
But how does someone break into the exclusive, and oftentimes less-diverse, world of high fashion? High Fashion High, a teen-run fashion show at Bumbershoot 2023, might just be the start of an answer.
A show run by, and primarily for, teenagers, High Fashion High’s purpose was to bring the world of high fashion to the Pacific Northwest and create a space of creativity for young clothing designers. The show’s two themes, particularly the first “Not Another Puffer”, helped the audience connect with the pieces seen on the runway, as the aforementioned theme made fun of the Pacific Northwest’s obsession with basic puffy coats. The designers also incorporated recycled materials and a wide variety of clothing items, some used, into the pieces, creating looks that were both striking and eco-friendly.
Another thing about high fashion: it doesn’t follow trends. It starts them. This aspect is what separates high fashion from the fast trend cycles promoted on social media, and also a component of what makes high fashion more sustainable. Young fashion designers, like the ones creating pieces for High Fashion High, have grown up surrounded by activists and awareness regarding climate change, reusing materials, and the growing urgency to protect our planet. Where the clothing industry around them cultivated a wasteful and very temporary mindset, these teens created a space to be both creative and caring toward the future of our planet.
High Fashion High helped the next generation of fashion designers, makeup artists, and models understand the effort and time that should go into making a quality piece of clothing. It also paved the way for more teen-run fashion shows in the near future. This is especially exciting in the Pacific Northwest, since there aren’t many spaces yet for fashion to thrive. Seeing a teen-run exhibit at Bumbershoot proved to be very refreshing as well, as it’s more evidence that the festival’s target audience is expanding significantly.
Fast fashion may seem like an unsolvable and daunting problem, but by creating a space for the next generations to care and change how clothing is made, slowly and surely, teens will make an impact.