how ultra-fast fashion seduced young people

T-shirts for 5 euros, dresses for 8 euros: “ultra fast fashion” brands are pushing the boundaries of low prices by producing more and more at the risk of catastrophic ecological consequences, with the main target being people aged 25 and under. The English Boohoo, the Hong Kong brand Emmiol or even the very fashionable Chinese brand SheIn present themselves on the same model: 100% online clothing sales companies with unbeatable prices, often accompanied by promotions.

This is “ultra fast mode”: every day a huge number of articles and new references, new collections in record time, even faster than the giants of fast fashion such as H&M or Zara.

At the risk of multiplying practices that are not very ecological. “Much of this cheap clothing ends up (…) in huge landfills, burned on open fires, along riverbeds and washes into the sea”in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, the environmental NGO denounced Greenpeace in April.

Follow the trend “without spending an astronomical amount”

Despite the opacity of a sector that remains extremely discreet about its results, its success is undeniable.

SheIn saw its turnover increase by 60% in 2021, according to Bloomberg, sales soared to $16 billion, following in the footsteps of H&M, which recorded sales of SEK 199 billion (Euro 19 billion) in the same year.

Lola (18) orders two to three times a month on SheIn, for an average basket of about 70 euros and about ten articles. For the Nancy, this brand that is very popular in its entourage makes it possible to follow the trend ” without spending an astronomical amount “.

Low prices are central to the success of these businesses among young people, whose limited purchasing power leads to
look for quantity instead of quality”
emphasizes Valérie Guillard, university professor at Paris-Dauphine.

There is also the appeal of an unworn product, which “
was made for you
“while the second-hand, also cheap, is more aimed at a public” involved “, according to the expert. Usual “for the same price we prefer new “.

Remain essential among young people, the brand is ubiquitous on social networks. The format of the swipe — videos in which consumers unpack packages and try on clothes facing the camera — has mainly contributed to its popularity on TikTok, a network praised by teens and young adults.

Margot, 25, says she chooses not to watch these types of videos, but they appear in abundance in the content offered to her. “
It must have made me long at least once
she admits.

To take advantage of massive exposure at a lower price, the brands rely on the ” micro-influence » : partnerships with people who are followed on social networks by a small number of subscribers, but who benefit from greater proximity and trust from their community.

But the flip side of low prices is these social or environmental scandals. For example, the Swiss NGO Public Eye has noted, in
a survey published in NovemberWhich of factory workers in China outsourced by SheIn worked up to 75 hours a weekrhythm illegal in the country.

ephemeral fashion, third most water-consuming sectorwould also be responsible each year for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissionsas much as international air and maritime traffic combined, according to the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe).

Authorities are also starting to scrutinize the practices of these brands and the British Competition Authority (CMA) therefore announced on Friday the opening of investigations into Boohoo and Asos in particular, out of fear ” greenwashing “, namely false environmental promises on certain products.

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