'That's so last season': An investigation into the life span of high street garments through the rise of disposable fashion and the speed of trend re-emergence.


  • Aisha Asif NTU


‘fast fashion’, ‘sustainability’, ‘trends’ ‘trend cycle’


Fast fashion is causing a constant cycle of over production and over consumption, with millions of clothes being thrown away yearly, having a detrimental effect on the environment. This article argues that the constant renewal of trends creates a climate where consumers buy cheap trend focused, items to wear a few times, throw them away and replace with the next trend. Garments that have not worn out are disposed of on the basis that their style has been deemed obsolete, by those who determine what is, or what is not, on trend. This article is concerned with understanding whether or not fast moving trends are shortening the life span of garments. To do this, several studies were conducted, with information being extracted from the FashionMap archive. The archive is a collection of seasonal examples of high street fashion from 2000 to 2017 sourced and stored by Nottingham Trent University. Over 1800 items were studied to assess whether garment life spans are being shortened because of the trend cycle. All trends in the archive were recorded and their re-emergence tracked, informing the decision to do an in-depth study on the most prevalent; the stripe. Analysis found very few trends occurred just once, with the majority reappearing at least twice with very subtle changes, creating the need for new clothes each time. To assess high street retailers’ consideration to sustainability, three key items were studied; t-shirts, shirts and jeans. The findings show that the majority of garments are made using synthetic materials and production is mainly done in the Far East, making the carbon footprint of basic items particularly high. The near immediate replacement of trends, which are the focus of the article, therefore allows the high street to provide low quality, cheap garments as long as they are ‘on trend’.