Up-and-coming designers face off against fast fashion

More mega-brands like Shein test the local market to the dismay of local designers

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Local designers are struggling to fight against fast fashion online retailers.

The upcoming opening of a Shein pop-up store in Vancouver has become a trending topic in the fashion industry as many stores and young designers already face competition.

Vancouver design student Ava Gruft from  Blanche Macdonald Centre said that companies using fast fashion is “shameful.”

She said designers work hard and put a lot of effort into making their products and fast fashion takes advantage of them.

“Young and upcoming designers can honestly feel a little bit discouraged,” Gruft said.

Fast fashion is defined as the mass production of trendy designs at a low cost. Online stores such as Shein or Temu have increased in popularity over the last few years with their ability to produce trendy clothes overnight and for having a large variety of products.

Emma Shepherd, a sustainable fashion instructor at Blanche MacDonald Centre, said while fast fashion is growing in popularity amongst the general population, as seen in the rapid growth of Shein, many up-and-coming designers are working against that industry.

Shepherd said that one way to fight fast fashion is by finding companies that have the similar values to the designer.

She said consumers need to make sure that they are “affiliating [themselves] with people that are also having those sustainable practices.”

While many students come in with eco-friendly ideals, Shepherd said the limited job market forces many into corporate positions.

“Nobody goes to school dreaming that they’re going to be a fast fashion CEO, but a lot of people end up doing that because there’s just so many jobs in that kind of field, and we’re just going to have less and less high end jobs,” Shepherd said.

The heavy expenses of designing a collection

She said designers often try to find alternative methods to lower their material costs. She said she and many others source recycled fabrics.

Gruft also said it’s hard to be sustainable and affordable at the same time.

“I wrote down every cost from the photo shoots, all my material sampling, every single cost in total adds up to $5,000. So it’s really expensive.”

Gruft and many other students of Shepherd said they struggle to source materials without compromising either their business or their ethics.

In Grufts’ experience, it may take up to a year to make a collection, however, “fast fashion brands make it in like the week or days, so it can be discouraging,” she said.

Consumers paying the price

It’s not just the designers that suffer. Customers of independent designers also bear the brunt of the high prices of material.

“If I were to sell my garments, like they would probably be pretty expensive, because they take a lot of work and the materials are costly,” Gruft said.

Wyatt Douglas, an aspiring stylist, said while he is adamantly against fast fashion, he understands why some customers may be forced into buying it.

“I just think everyone kind of looks at fast fashion as the easy outlook into buying clothes, which there was a point in time where I was doing the same,” Douglas said.

He said that thrifting is also a sustainable and affordable way of shopping for students. Douglas said most people thrift when they’re looking for “certain things,” but other people go “to get clothes just for everyday wear.”

Gruft said that young people are getting more educated on fast fashion and its negative effects.

“It’s good that younger children are starting to shop more ethically and shop secondhand,” she said. “They’ll also start to buy from more local designers, more small, independent fashion designers.”

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