The Fashion Quicksand: Trend Tornadoes & the Struggle to Stay Afloat

In a world driven by ever-changing trends and instant gratification, Fast Fashion has emerged as a dominant force in the clothing industry, overtaking the spaces in people’s closets. Its allure comes from the inexpensive access to the latest pieces that carry all the rage – but have you ever stopped and wondered who pays the real price for those cheap, trendy clothes?

Men shirts – Photo taken by: Ieva Martyshevska

We, Ieva Martyshevska & Raniya Sheharyar, will be introducing to you to the up and coming epidemic of fast fashion. Fast Fashion refers to the rapid manufacture and consumption of low-cost clothes, which is frequently characterized by rapid change and bad quality. Although fast fashion has grown in popularity owing to its low prices and popular designs, it is critical to explore its larger consequences – which we will be doing today.

Our goal is to inform you on why you should consider shopping ethically, as it is crucial to decreasing the negative environmental effects of the fashion industry, encourages ethical production and fair hiring practices, decreases the production of waste, encourages local and independent businesses, and fosters innovation and positive change within the fashion sector.

To help promote this objective and message, we will present our interview conducted with Helena AR @helenaarcollection (, an owner of a fashion boutique who has an insider’s perspective on this situation and presents alternative methods. [1] 

This is a collaboration between Dubai and Zurich. Our Swiss team partners’ contribution: Fast Fashion, the danger up close

The Exploitation of Fashion’s Forgotten Workers

The fast fashion industry heavily relies on the labor-intensive production processes in countries like Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, where workers often face dire working conditions and are subjected to exploitation. These workers, desperate to make a living, are often paid meager wages, work in hazardous environments, endure long working hours, and lack adequate legal protections, as highlighted in many instances, such as the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh. It is crucial for fashion brands and consumers to prioritize human rights and demand transparency. [2]

Rana Plaza Incident Bangladesh-Munir
Rana Plaza Incident Bangladesh-Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

In the supply chain, and brands should take responsibility for ensuring that their products are manufactured in safe and fair conditions. Providing workers with living wages, reasonable working hours, and safe environments, is the absolute bare minimum standards that these corporations must hold.

From Couture To Consciousness : A Fashion Designers Revelations

Let’s see an inside point of view, through an interview with boutique owner Helena AR, @helenaarcollection (, who can offer a unique commentary on the dialogue of Fast Fashion, having seen the industry evolve in different countries through her career.

June 6th, 2023

@helenaarcollection (
@helenaarcollection (

1)    Can you briefly explain what fast fashion means to you and how it has influenced the fashion industry?

Fast Fashion for me is mass production, where clothes are made at affordable prices. People are just buying latest trend as in at affordable prices.

2)    Have you noticed any differences in consumer behavior and preferences between the UK and Dubai/South Asia when it comes to sustainable fashion choices?

I believe UK are already working on this subject and are far ahead. I see amazing support from UAE Government on sustainability and feel so happy people are accommodating the jute bags and reducing plastic wastage.

3)     As a boutique owner and someone who has been in this industry for a considerable amount of time, do you feel the effects of fast fashion in your business? If so, how?

At the Boutique we are focusing on producing smaller quantities, and we focus more on quality rather than quantity.

4)     What motivated you to open your own boutique amidst the prevalence of fast fashion?

My partner opened the boutique, and I was given the opportunity to have my collection in the boutique. I was always interested to have my collection in a store/boutique, as customers are always interested in seeing the product/quality and prefer to do a trial fitting at the store

5)     What steps do you take to ensure that your boutique offers sustainable and ethically produced fashion items?

I think a lot of issue with fashion fashion is that most client buy (clothes) but don’t like the quality, fitting, etc.,.I try my best to give a customized fitting and good quality so that it is not just for a one off occasion. We are also promoting rental options as we see and hear from clients on the wardrobe space issue. Keep that wardrobe spacious go rental.

6)     How do you communicate the value of quality and durability to your customers, given the allure of cheap and trendy fast fashion options?

For the casual everyday wear I focus on the fabric quality to ensure durability. We are also focusing on rental options instead of just purchasing clothing items.

7)     Do you collaborate with local artisans or designers to promote traditional craftsmanship and support local talent?

I have collaborated with designers and have also been advised by new designers/friends that I have inspired them and have also supported them in their journey from sourcing to designing. We are also in discussion with various brands for collaboration.

8)     If so, how do you integrate their work into your boutique?

It is too early for me to say as I have only been in the boutique for approx 3x weeks. Recently we had fashion graduates who came in to see my collection and had many questions which we discussed to motivate them on going forward. I also shared with them many lessons learnt from my journey and how I took than into perspective and moved forward. Your journey is only a failure if you give in. The only way forward is to learn and move on and succeed.

9)     Have you noticed any changes in customer attitudes towards fast fashion and sustainability in recent years? If so, what are they?

Friends/clients/designers who are talking about sustainability by wearing fabric which are being recycled or going for bespoke outfits instead of fast fashion.

10)     What advice would you give to individuals who want to make more conscious fashion choices but may find it challenging to navigate the overwhelming options available in the market?

The advise that I would give as a fashion designer to any individual is that we need to all contribute and make a small difference when it comes to sustainability. One small difference from everyone will have a massive impact. Change your behavior as a start –  stop thinking about quantity – focus on quality!

The Dark Side of SHEIN: Fast Fashion and it’s High Costs

SHEIN Factory Working Conditions
SHEIN Factory Working Conditions – JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

The emergence of fast fashion in our society has been encouraged by several causes, including changes in consumer behavior, globalization  ( and technological improvements. Fast fashion is the rapid manufacture and usage of low-cost textiles, which is driven by the need for current trends at reasonable rates.

Let’s now focus on an online shopping website called SHEIN, which works within the fast fashion framework, providing a wide range of clothing designs that are created swiftly and made accessible for purchase. This style meets the desire for rapid, inexpensive, and ever-changing fashion trends. However, SHEIN has come under criticism for its supply chain and labor practices. There have been complaints of cruel labor conditions and poor salaries in SHEIN clothing manufacturers.

Furthermore, the company has been warned for a lack of willingness in its production practices. These factors show us clearly that fast fashion isn’t the best choice to choose while you’re shopping for clothing. Supporting fast fashion will actually mean that you are contributing to the the displacement of local craftspeople and small-scale clothing producers. Regional economies, heritage cultures, and traditional craft may suffer as a result, weakening the social fabric of communities. [3]

     Upcycling? – What’s that?



Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste  materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value.

Benefits of Upcycling for the Environment & Communities

Upcycling offers numerous benefits for the environment and communities. Firstly, it helps reduce textile waste by diverting discarded garments from landfills. This, in turn, minimizes the consumption of resources required to produce new clothing items. Upcycling also has the potential to create economic opportunities for local communities, as encouraging local artisans and small-scale entrepreneurs to engage in upcycling practices fosters job creation and supports sustainable livelihoods. Furthermore, upcycling promotes a shift in consumer mindset, encouraging individuals to value quality, uniqueness, and longevity over disposable fashion trends. [4]

Gen Z, TikTok, and One Trend After the Next

Women's dresses- Photo taken by: Ieva Martyshevska
Women’s dresses- Photo taken by: Ieva Martyshevska

TikTok provides a space for users to create and consume short-form videos, including fashion content, and has become a hub for fashion inspiration where users showcase their personal style, share outfit ideas, and participate in viral fashion challenges. With its algorithmic recommendation system, TikTok exposes users to a diverse range of fashion aesthetics and encourages experimentation and self-expressions, which, as a result, it has accelerated the pace at which trends spread and evolve.

With its highly engaging and addictive nature, TikTok drives the desire for instant gratification. Users are exposed to an array of fashion influencers and brands, often promoting affordable and rapidly changing clothing options. Young teenagers are especially pressured into not missing out on trending products, and often give in into buying from places like SHEIN, Primark, H&M, and more, who have been under fire for their participation in fast fashion and inhumane workplace standards.

Now we can see that with the growing presence of the youth on the internet, how people have been criticizing the practice of fast fashion due to its negative environmental and ethical impacts. The pressure to produce cheap clothing at a rapid pace has led to exploitative labor practices, excessive waste, and environmental pollution, and as Gen Z becomes more aware of these issues, there is a growing call for change. [5]

Social Media for Sustainable Fashion Promotion

1. Education and Awareness: Brands can utilize social media platforms like TikTok to educate consumers about the environmental and ethical implications of fast fashion. By sharing informative content, they can empower Gen Z to make sustainable fashion choices.

2. Collaboration with Influencers: Brands can partner with Gen Z influencers who can help amplify the brand’s message and values, reaching a broader audience and inspiring them to opt for sustainable alternatives.

3. Transparent Supply Chains: Brands can use social media to share the stories behind their products, highlighting their commitment to fair trade, ethical sourcing, and sustainable production processes. This transparency builds trust and fosters a sense of connection between the brand and its consumers, and may cause up-and-coming brands to take inspiration and follow in these sustainable footsteps.

4. Engaging Content: To capture the attention of Gen Z, brands should create visually appealing and engaging content that aligns with the latest social media trends. This can include behind-the-scenes glimpses, upcycling tutorials, or styling tips that are trendy, aesthetic, and encourage sustainable fashion practices. [6]

Sustainable Alternatives

Now we will be exploring sustainable options that you can purchase from when on the hunt for new clothes:

1. Patagonia ( is well-known for its dedication to environmental sustainability. The company prioritizes natural and recyclable goods, ethical trading procedures, and lowering its environmental impact. They also encourage item repair and recycling.

2. Veja ( is a manufacturer of shoes noted for its environmentally friendly and open operations. They work directly with small-scale producers in Brazil and use environmentally friendly materials such as organic cotton and wild rubber. In their supply chain, Veja supports fair salaries and social development.

3. People Tree ( is a forerunner in fair trade clothing. They collaborate with developing-country craftspeople and farmers to provide fair salaries and safe places to work. The brand promotes organic and environmentally friendly materials.

Sustainable Fashion Uphill Battle: Past & Present Challenges

– Sustainable manufacturing strategies, such as employing natural or recycled materials, ensuring fair wages, and using eco-friendly procedures, may result in greater expenses. As a result, the retail price for sustainable clothing may be more than for fast fashion businesses, making sustainable apparel more costly to some buyers.

– Although there is an increasing interest in sustainable fashion, it still has a lesser market share than rapid fashion. Teaching buyers about the value of environmentally friendly practices and motivating them to prefer ethical choices is a never-ending struggle.

– Because of their low costs, quick manufacturing, and heavy marketing, fast fashion brands dominate the industry. As they value durability, quality, and ethical concerns, sustainable companies frequently struggle to compete with their more affordable and trend-focused competitors.

Final Thoughts

While sustainable fashion may seem like a pricier choice upfront, it’s a decision that will save you money in the long run. Investing in well-made, higher-quality items means fewer replacements and a wardrobe that stands the test of time – imagine the satisfaction of owning clothing that lasts, knowing you’re reducing waste and avoiding the constant need to buy new pieces.

By choosing ethical fashion, you become a champion for the environment, workers’ rights, and give yourself an opportunity to align your values with your purchasing habits – to stand up for a more sustainable and equitable future. With each conscious choice you make, you send a powerful message to the industry that you demand change.

Together, we can create a fashion revolution that prioritizes our people & the planet.

Remember – Change Begins With You!

Written by: Raniya Sheharyar & Ieva Martyshevska
Supported and reviewed by Praveena Venugopalan

Our Sources

[1] What Is Fast Fashion? (
[2] The Rana Plaza Disaster (
[3] The True Cost Of Shein Is Not One We’re Willing To Pay  (
[4] The Benefits of Upcycling (
[5] How Tiktok Drives Fashion (
[6] What is Social Media’s Impact on Fast Fashion? An Investigation (

Header image: from, where photos are uploaded for free and can be used for commercial use without needing to ask permission.


Collaborating on the Horse Project has been an enlightening experience, pushing my boundaries and developing various skills of mine. Each aspect of this article required careful planning and coordination, which not only enhanced my journalism skills, but also taught me the importance of effective collaboration and time management. The knowledge and skills we have gained from participating in this project will aid us throughout different aspects of our lives, and we are excited for similar opportunities awaiting for us going forward.

This is a collaboration between Dubai and Zurich. Our Swiss team partners’ contribution: Fast Fashion, the danger up close

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2 thoughts on “The Fashion Quicksand: Trend Tornadoes & the Struggle to Stay Afloat

  1. brilliant effort . A brief description not only about the fashion industry but also highlighted the labours and their rights and also good suggestions . keep up the same spirit .

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