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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Small clothing labels forced to close cheap imported fast fashion in Australia

As the cost-of-living crisis fuels demand for affordable clothing, Australians continue to access cheap fashion on a global scale, thousands of shoppers hunt bargains at a cheap clothing event, while an Australian label close struggling to compete against ‘fast fashion’ producers.

Thousands of people attended the cheap fashion pop-up in Perth. Fast fashion is a term coined to describe clothing that is manufactured quickly, on a mass scale. Australia has in the past sent the majority of its fashion manufacturing offshore, meaning textiles can be mass-produced at a low price.

This weekend a multi-billion-dollar online clothing platform gave Perth shoppers the opportunity to buy their garments in person. A woman named Ellise wearing pink clothing she waited for the opening of Perth outlet since 6am, when it was really dark and she was first to enter the sales point.

It cost $130 for all three of these items which would be worth $500 to $600 from traditional brands, Ellise said. At the same time, local designer Shannon Malone packed her last orders, shutting her label after four years in business. “It was just no longer viable to be producing clothing in Western Australia with the market and the price point I had to be charging garments at,” she said. “With fast fashion giants, they have the monopoly on essentially product manufacturing. They’ve got the quickest turnaround,” she said.

“There are giants that proudly boast they have 120 new styles a week … there’s no way that a brand like mine, at this scale could compare to the turnaround of a massive brand like that.” She is one of many Australian-made labels shutting up shop in a growing battle to compete with global online business.

Australians have become the biggest consumers of clothing per capita in the world, according to research from the Australia Institute. The 2024 analysis revealed Australians buy an average of more than 50 new items of clothing a year. The average value of those new clothes is $13, compared to $40 in the UK.

Designer Luka Rey makes swimwear to order from her home studio and said fast fashion houses have used the rising cost of living to their advantage. “I think a lot of big brands see price increases across the board, they look to fill that gap, and they just start offering a lower price point product and introducing cheaper materials,” she said.

She said the argument of supporting locals is more nuanced than expecting people to spend outside of their means. “You cannot deny that there are people out there that cannot afford that,” she said.

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