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The Perils of Trend Overload: Fast Fashion’s Dominance Over Sustainable Shopping

The Perils of Trend Overload: Fast Fashion’s Dominance Over Sustainable Shopping

The Perils of Trend Overload: Fast Fashion’s Dominance Over Sustainable Shopping

For many consumers, it’s hard to remember a time before cheap and trendy online shopping was the #1 way to build a wardrobe.

The rise of fast fashion was swift, dominant, and most of all, destructive - from worsened pollution to unethical working conditions to the consumers addicted to fleeting trends, fast fashion hurts almost everyone involved.

Consumers know that fast fashion is detrimental to the planet and people alike, yet its popularity continues to grow. In order to drive change on this key issue, let’s take a look at the perils of fast fashion and recent trend data to identify which sectors of the market are growing or declining in popularity.

Fast Fashion’s Destruction

Fast fashion is the “design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing.” Many of the fashion industry’s biggest brands are categorized as fast fashion, including Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, and Urban Outfitters.

They each use trend replication, sweatshop labor in underdeveloped nations, and low-quality, synthetic materials to churn out massive volumes of clothing in record time. The industry as a whole generates 10% of global carbon emissions, 20% of global wastewater, and 342 million barrels of petroleum. 100 billion clothing items are made annually, yet 92 million tons of them wind up in landfills.

They all contribute to a toxic system of waste and pollution, but there’s one brand receiving heightened criticism for its human impact: Shein, which produces between 2,000 and 10,000 items per day, yet pays employees as low as two cents per garment and requires 7-day, 18-hour work schedules.

Sector Growth

Despite the widespread backlash against fast fashion, leading brands like Shein are seeing record success.

In October, Shein officially became the largest fashion retailer in the world following a $100bn valuation - it’s now bigger than Zara and H&M combined. It’s the most mentioned brand on TikTok and the most downloaded retail app.

Data from Surge.AI confirms that consumers are shopping for Shein more and more - searches for the brand on Amazon went up 41% between September and October with more growth expected. Surge data also revealed Google search increases between Septembert and October for H&M (+73%) and Zara (+144%).

Declining Sustainability Searches

Simultaneously, Surge.AI data shows people are searching for sustainable fashion options less and less while shopping online.

On Google, consumers went from almost 90k monthly searches of “sustainable fashion” in July 2022 to just 50k in September. The same search on Amazon has stayed at or dipped below 6k, and on YouTube, the search word has dropped from over 60k searches in July 2022 to 40k in October.

The stagnation was the same when looking at Google searches for individual sustainable fashion brands from September - October of 2022. Girlfriend Collective searches dropped by 34%, TenTree by 24%, Able by 36%, Boden by 10%, and Allbirds by 25%. Reformation dropped by 200k searches while Everlane dropped by 100k searches.

Moving Forward

While the “slow fashion” movement could be the solution to this global issue, its leaders need a better understanding of the data behind fashion trends in order to drive change, attract consumers and build a more sustainable future for all.


Curious to see how AI can help you understand consumer trends and disrupt your industry? Let’s chat - contact us at hello@surge.ai.

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