Can You Get Good Clothes from Fast Fashion Stores?

Fast fashion is – whether we agree with it or not – a large part of clothing today. Retail chain products of the likes of Cotton On, H&M and Zara are seen on people around the nation every day. With the prevalence of fast fashion and the negative connotations that come along with the word such as environmental disrespect and poor quality as the cost of a cheap garment, the question begs to be asked: can you get good clothes from these stores?

It is a Game of Chance.

Fast fashion chains move too much volume and variety to stick to just one supplier. Because of this – and the fact that manufacturing needs to be done at a cheap margin for these companies to turn a profit – the quality of the garments can vary; some items might fall apart after the first wash while others might last a long while. It is dependent on the quality control at each individual factory, and there is often no chance of discerning.

Some items will be more of a risk than others; t-shirts are a total luck of the draw situation, but some items like denim jackets have a chance of lasting longer because of the nature of the fabric. For example, I’ve had this Cotton On lumber jacket for a couple of years now and it has not torn or broken anywhere, but there is a lot more than just fabric and stitch strength involved in determining whether a garment is any good.

There are some things that can be guaranteed with a garment purchased from a fast fashion store:

Certainties of Buying Fast Fashion

At the cheap end of the fashion industry, there is a classic situation in which there is a triangle of options and you can only have two of the three options.

These are Style/Colour, Affordability and Fit.

With fast fashion, the aim is to provide a wide variety of options at the most accessible prices. Naturally, it is the fit that suffers. I will use the example of my Cotton On lumber jacket again:

Boxy fits:

A square and boxy cut will fit the most body types into it. The fit will not be good on any of those body types because nobody is literally built like a fridge, but it will provide an average fit to a maximum number. Case in point, my lumber jacket is essentially cut straight down from shoulder seam to waist.

If I do it up, it looks odd. Why? Because my hips and chest are wide. Hence, I tend to wear it open.

Another thing to mention is the fit across the back. If you have developed lateral muscles, boxy cuts like this will likely pull and restrict your movement somewhat.

Sleeve length:

Sleeve length is another thing that will likely be off, and given the cheapness and low quality of most fast fashion garments there is no point in paying to have them altered. I have found that sleeves tend to be too long on mass produced items. I have had this issue with a previous denim jacket and also have it with the lumber jacket, on which the sleeve cuffs need to be rolled back for them not to engulf half of my hands:

So Why did I buy it?

When I bought this, I had no clue about what constituted a decent fit. I was allured by the style (always wanted a lumber jacket in this pattern, and with a zip front) and the price point. Had I been confronted with the decision again today, I would have left it on the rack.

Conclusion: What is the Answer to the Big Question?

It depends on your priorities, and your definition of ‘good’. You might get something that has been decently constructed from a sturdy fabric. The odds are not on your side in that regard, however. You are certain to have something of which the fit is average at best.

If your definition of good is just to have a style/colour of garment at an affordable price point with an average fit, then you can say – in your specific context – that you can get good clothes at fast fashion stores. If your definition of good clothes reaches beyond that realm you are best served in avoiding these stores, unless you happen to share a build with the brand’s fit model. Which you do not, because nobody is box shaped.

That’s all for today!

Thanks for reading. See you on the next post.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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