How Fast Fashion Invaded the Philippines Retail Market

How Fast Fashion Invaded the Philippines Retail Market

Manila, Philippines: Historically, new fashion trends were introduced every season but this system has drastically changed. Nowadays, collections are produced and released to the market on a weekly basis; thus the birth of fast fashion.

Fast fashion is the rapid production of inexpensive clothing by mass-market retailers. These collections are usually based on fashion trends, either inspired by the main catwalk shows, worn by a celebrity or even a cool street style gaining popular momentum on social media. These trends are quickly made available and affordable for consumers hence the term ‘fast’ fashion. Everything is on fast forward that even the natural growing cycle of cotton is being manipulated to meet consumers’ demand for new fashion and the industry’s thirst for profits.

The rise of fashion fashion in the Philippines

High street giants such as Zara, Uniqlo and Forever21 have invaded our shopping malls and cheap, low-quality mass-manufactured fashion goods have flooded retail shops.

Traditionally Filipinos have followed a ‘tiangge’ culture (a Filipino term for flea market or bazaar) but since the items sold at these retail spaces aren’t frequently updated compared with fast fashion retail outlets, Filipinos happily embrace this invasion.

Pinoys would also rather buy upscale and imported brands rather than locally-produced clothing and accessories found at tiangges simply because imported fashion is seen as ‘cooler’ and is believed to be of better quality compared to local finds. The number of garments shopped by an average consumer from these global brands grew by 60 percent each year from 2000 to 2014 alone.

A shopper tries on shoes at SM City mall in Taytay City in the Philippines. Photo: Shutterstock.

The disposability of fast fashion

The world’s population consumes about 62 million tonnes of clothes per year and only 20 percent is being reused or recycled. The remainder is either incinerated or landfilled. Thus fast fashion can also be described as disposable fashion. In the Philippines, due to weekly changing fashion trends, a third of Filipinos have thrown away their cheap clothes after using it just once. According to the 2017 YouGov Omnibus survey, 65 percent of Filipino adults have thrown away clothes in the past year.

Fast fashion not only fills up our dumpsites; the harmful chemicals from its production such as toxic synthetic dyes, pollute the environment too. 

Currently, the Philippines is facing water shortages and yet fashion production consumes a large amount of the country’s natural resources. For example, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt which is what one person drinks in three years.

Related Post: Unethical Fast Fashion: If We Don’t Buy It, They Won’t Make It, It’s That Simple?

Credit: Brian Evans via Flickr

Let’s not forget the people behind the clothes. Fast fashion companies outsource manufacturing to developing countries where employees receive low wages and are often forced to toil in unsafe working environments with few labor protections. The fashion documentary The True Cost uncovered the hidden side of fashion and explored the issues that led to the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh where more than 1,100 people died and over 2,500 injured. As the film revealed, unethical labor practices such as human exploitation and forced labor, locking people in buildings, threatening to dock their pay and fire them, ignoring safety regulations and warnings is all too common in fast fashion.

Ethical and sustainable fashion in the Philippines

Some clothing retailers in the Philippines have responded to the fast fashion crisis by creating sustainable and ethical alternatives that is ‘slower’, minimises environmental impact, uses less toxic chemicals and treats workers with respect and dignity as well as paying them a living wage.

One such fashion business is Rags2Riches, a social enterprise selling bags and woven accessories made from recycled materials and are produced by fairly-paid local artisans across the Philippines. The aim is to partner with the artisans to provide opportunities for sustainable income and provide then with financial empowerment.

Other local sustainable fashion brands include Siklo Pilipinas which recycles used tires into stylish and functional bags and accessories, and Lumago Designs which up-cycles materials such as soda can tabs to create unique jewelry.

Rags2Riches bags and fashion accessories are made by fairly-paid local artisans.

Ukay-ukay: Filipino second-hand shops

Ukay-ukay shops have been a popular go-to shop in the Philippines. ‘Ukay’ comes from the word halukay which means ‘to dig’. Ukay-ukay shops are a Filipino version of thrift stores; places where second-hand clothes and fashion accessories are sold and where it’s common that a shopper is required to dig deep enough through the messy pile of clothes to come across great finds that aren’t found in fast fashion shops.

Fashion Revolution Week in the Philippines

Fashion Revolution is a global movement that comprises 93 countries, including the Philippines, all yelling one battle cry: to support clothing that is kind to the earth and provides fair pay and just labor conditions to the people making the clothes. Originally launched as Fashion Revolution Day to commemorate the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the social movement now spans a week, known as Fashion Revolution Week.

The 2019 Fashion Revolution Week is being from April 22-28. This year, the Swedish Embassy in Manila is joining in, hoping to raise awareness of the problems associated with fast fashion and promote sustainability in fashion with their three-month long exhibition entitled Fashion Revolution: The Future of Textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. This exhibition will run until April 30th 2019.

Inspired to shop responsibly? Keen to vote with your dollars? Check out our resources page for a comprehensive list of ethical and sustainable brands.


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Title image credit: Shutterstock

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