28 Intriguing Fast Fashion Statistics You Need to Know in 2021

During the second half of the 20th century, fashion became one of the leading industries in the world. But as you’ll learn from these fast fashion statistics, it was fast fashion rather than luxury fashion that helped transform the industry. It also changed our perception of clothing and how we purchase and wear garments.

Keep reading to learn more about the current state of the fashion industry, with an emphasis on fast fashion.

Top Fast Fashion Stats (Editor’s Choice)

  • 48% of Millenials and Gen Z intend to buy more second-hand fashion after the pandemic.
  • Nike is the world’s leading apparel company in terms of brand value.
  • Zara’s owner Inditex is the leading European fast-fashion company.
  • Clothing utilisation went down by 36% between 2003 and 2018.
  • One-third of young women in the UK think an item of clothing is “old” after they’ve worn it once or twice.
  • The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.
  • The fast-fashion industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year.

General Fast Fashion Facts

The term “fast fashion” refers to the speed and rate at which major fashion brands bring the latest trends from high-fashion runways to the stores. As you’re about to learn, brands use tremendous resources to speed up the new clothes’ production cycle and increase the rate at which people purchase new garments.

1. In the first decade and a half of the 21st century, the production of clothes doubled.

(McKinsey)

A general increase in production is a marker of modern development in most industries and countries worldwide. Textile production is no exception. Fast-fashion industry statistics show that the fast-fashion cycle is a significant contributor to the apparel industry’s growth.

Thanks to new technologies, materials, and trends, clothing production doubled in the period between 2000 and 2014. During that same timeframe, the global average of purchased clothing items per capita rose by nearly 60%.

2. Since 2000, European fashion brands went from releasing just 2 new collections per year to up to 24.

(European Parliament)

Twenty years ago, most European fashion brands released two new collections per year. As fashion cycles sped up, the number of collections also increased. In 2011, brands had five new collections on average. Major fast-fashion brands nowadays put out new clothes at a breakneck pace—H&M puts out from 12 to 16 and Zara up to 24 new collections per year.

3. In the first half of 2018, visits to fast-fashion websites accounted for 66% of all fashion-related internet traffic.

(InternetRetailing)

Interestingly, this spike in fast fashion’s popularity had to do with the highly watched reality series Love Island. Three brands—Missguided, PrettyLittleThing, and BooHoo—had their products featured on the 2018 series, leading to double-digit percentage growths in their visits. Shein, another of the show’s sponsors, saw its visits grow by a whopping 117%.

4. Fast fashion statistics show that Nike is still the leading apparel company in terms of brand value.

(Statista)

Even though the economic downturn in 2020 had an impact on all leading apparel brands, they’re currently holding on strong. Nike is continuing its dominance with a brand value of £25.5 billion, down from £28.6 billion in 2019. The second-ranked GUCCI is lagging by a wide margin; its value in 2020 was £12.9 billion. Adidas and Louis Vuitton (£12.1 billion each) are next, with Cartier (£11 billion) rounding out the top five.

5. According to recent fast fashion statistics, Inditex is the leading European fast-fashion company.

(Statista)

Zara is the best-known among the brands under the Inditex umbrella, and it also brings most of the company’s revenue. Speaking of revenue, Inditex is the undisputed leader among European fast-fashion companies. The company generated £22.5 billion in 2019, more than Primark (£7.5 billion) and Marks & Spencer (£10.4 billion) combined. A year earlier, Inditex also took the lead in the number of units sold with 2.9 billion.

6. China is the leading textile exporter in the world, fashion industry statistics show.

(Statista, World Trade Organisation)

In 2019, China held a 30.8% share of the global textile exporting market, putting it in the top spot. It was followed by the European Union (27.6%, including its then-member United Kingdom), Bangladesh (6.8%), and Vietnam (6.2%). India ended up fifth with a 3.5% share — a significant drop from 2018 when it was in third place with a 5.8% market share.

7. According to fast fashion statistics from 2020, the global sales of apparel and footwear will exceed £2.4 trillion by 2030.

(Statista)

Recent projections show that the growth of the fashion industry will return to normal after 2021. In 2019, the global sales of apparel and footwear reached £1.4 trillion. The largest apparel market in the world was the US, with £263.6 million in revenue.

Markets in Asia-Pacific and some European regions also showed significant growth, fast fashion statistics reveal. The former held a 38% share of the global apparel market in 2019. In terms of per-capita spending on apparel and footwear, the Netherlands was in the lead with 122.51 pieces bought in 2018.

8. The global fast-fashion market experienced a 12.32% annual decline in 2020.

(GlobeNewswire)

The fast-fashion market has seen substantial growth over the last decade, but the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted its progress. The economic slowdown was among the biggest fast fashion problems in 2020, as the market’s value went down by 12.32% for total revenue of £23 billion. However, experts predict that the market will fully recover by 2023 when it’s expected to reach close to £28 billion in revenue.

9. In 2021, the global revenue in women’s apparel is expected to increase by 7.1% year-over-year.

(Statista)

One of the core facts about fast fashion is that women’s apparel still dominates the market over men’s. After experiencing a sizeable revenue drop in 2020, both are expected to see growth in 2021. Women’s apparel revenue is projected to reach £582.7 million (up by 7.1%), while men’s should exceed £433 million, marking a 7.3% increase year-over-year.

10. Clothing utilisation went down by 36% between 2003 and 2018.

(Down to Earth)

Clothing utilisation—the average number of times a person wears an item of clothing before discarding it—has dropped significantly since 2003. Garments are being replaced faster and faster, following the dynamics of the fast-fashion industry. Not even 1% of these pieces are recycled, which is worrisome considering fast fashion’s negative environmental impact.

11. Globally, 1 in 6 people works in a fashion-related job.

(UNECE)

The fashion industry, including fast fashion, has a tremendous impact on the employment structure worldwide. It employs more than 15% of the total global workforce, but because it typically pays even less than a minimum wage, the industry is closely linked with poverty issues. These fashion facts become even more complicated when we take into account that women make up about 80% of the workforce, bringing about issues of gender inequality.

12. Advocating for diversity brings fashion companies 19% more revenue. 

(Vogue Business)

Although fast fashion’s sustainability is one of the most-talked-about topics in the industry, people also often emphasise the need for diversity. Diversity and representation are crucial to trends, but even more so when discussing fashion companies’ organisational structure.

Companies with above-average diversity achieve so-called “innovation revenue” — 19% more in revenue than companies with average diversity. For example, Ralph Lauren organised diversity councils at every business level to provide feedback and advice in every segment of the company’s processes.

13. Models of colour get cast less often in major fashion shows.

(The Fashion Spot)

Fast fashion articles in major publications all emphasise this issue. As is the case with many other industries, models of colour are underrepresented in the fashion industry. In Fall 2020, they only got 40.6% of castings in major-city fashion shows, down from 41.5% in Spring that year. Plus-size models are even less-represented—across all big-city fashion shows in Fall 2020, only 46 plus-size models were hired, most of them by designer Christian Siriano.

Although these are not technically part of the fast-fashion industry, the trends in high fashion have a major influence on the later stages of fashion production, including fast fashion.

14. 48% of Millenials and Gen Z intend to buy more second-hand fashion after the pandemic.

(McKinsey)

Sustainable fashion statistics show that consumer sentiment is shifting towards more sustainable choices. Respondents of all generations stated they intend to buy more durable clothing (65%), keep their clothing longer (71%), and repair instead of throwing it away (57%). At the same time, newness became the least important factor when purchasing clothes.

Fast Fashion Statistics in the UK

The UK is one of the world’s largest fast-fashion markets and the home to some industry leaders. This section offers in-depth stats on the state of the UK’s fashion industry and fashion consumption.

15. Next Plc is the largest UK-based fast-fashion company.

(FashionUnited)

Burberry is the largest UK-based fashion company with annual revenue exceeding £7.3 billion. However, Burberry falls into the luxury fashion bracket; fast-fashion companies are led by Next Plc with more than £5.2 billion in revenue. Marks & Spencer and ASOS follow in third and fourth place with just over £4.5 billion each.

16. According to current fast fashion statistics, the UK apparel market revenue will exceed £62.2 billion in 2021.

(Statista)

Despite the financial slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s apparel market didn’t see a significant change in 2020. Fast fashion statistics for the UK put the 2020 fashion revenue at £60.3 billion, slightly up from £60.2 billion in 2019. Experts predict the market will continue to grow at a considerably higher rate, eventually reaching £66.8 billion by 2025.

While this is undeniably good for the country’s economy, it’s somewhat problematic that completely sustainable fashion brands account for just a tiny fraction of the total revenue.

17. The UK’s plus-size apparel market will reach £9.03 billion in annual revenue by 2022.

(Statista)

Niche apparel markets are on the rise across the Western world, and the UK is no exception. One such market is plus-size clothing, which had the value of £6.44 billion in 2016 and is expected to go up to £9.03 billion in 2022—a 40.3% increase over six years.

18. The number of retail clothing stores saw a significant drop between 2008 and 2018, UK fashion industry statistics show.

(Statista)

Even though annual clothing expenditures are growing, the number of physical apparel stores is declining. In 2008, there were 13,718 of them in the UK compared to 11,582 in 2018. The number hit a low in 2012 with just 10,115 specialised stores across the country.

19. Annually, the UK exports about £8.2 billion worth of clothing.

(FashionUnited)

The UK exports far less in clothing than it imports—£8.2 billion in exports compared to £30.6 billion in imports. However, this is true for most highly developed countries, and it’s one of the best-known fast fashion facts. The UK’s most exported products are women’s suits, which make up 11% of total exports. They’re followed by sweaters and sweatshirts (6% combined) and T-shirts (5.6%). Men’s suits are fourth, making up 5.2% of all exports.

20. People in the UK spent £59.3 billion on clothing in 2019.

(Statista)

Since 2005, when it generated £30.9 billion, the UK’s fast-fashion market has been growing steadily. In 2019, people in the UK spent a staggering £59.3 billion on clothes. A 5.9% rise from £55.8 billion in 2018 also marked the biggest year-over-year increase since 2005.

21. According to fast fashion consumer statistics, 55% of people in the UK purchased clothes online in 2020.

(Statista)

Since 2011, online clothing sales have been on the rise in the UK, reaching a record high in 2019, when 60% of individuals purchased clothes online. The percentage dropped to 55% in 2020 due to the pandemic-related lockdowns, but it’s expected to go up again in 2021.

22. One-third of young women in the UK think an item of clothing is “old” after they’ve worn it once or twice.

(The Business of Fashion)

A look at some interesting fast fashion facts reveals that 1 in 3 young women in the UK describes a garment worn once or twice as “old”. This perfectly shows how our fashion consumption habits have changed over the years. On that note, 1 in 7 young women says that being photographed twice in the same outfit is a major “fashion no-no”.

Fast Fashion Statistics - Textile Industry

Fashion Industry Pollution Statistics

Unfortunately, the fast-fashion industry brings along many negative aspects, most related to its environmental impact. Experts agree that the need to transform the industry into a more sustainable one is critical. Let’s check out why.

23. The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.

(Down to Earth)

Even though the textile industry is slowly moving to more environmentally responsible and sustainable modes of production, its effect on pollution is undeniable. With 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, it’s currently the second largest polluting industry globally, right behind the oil industry.

24. According to fast fashion waste statistics, the industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year.

(Nature, CNN)

The effects of fast fashion on the environment are significant and involve CO2 emissions, water consumption, chemical pollution, and textile waste. Just over 100 brands signed the UN’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% until 2030. However, it’s still unclear what to do with the leftover textile and other waste.

25. Fast fashion is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions annually.

(The World Bank Group)

Recent fast fashion environmental statistics reveal its immense contribution to the polluting effects of the textile industry. This contribution is so significant that the sector is currently responsible for 10% of total global carbon emissions from all industries.

Fast fashion’s emissions are projected to rise by more than 50% by 2030, which is why experts are calling for an urgent transition to more sustainable modes of production.

26. Using polyester in fast-fashion production increases dangerous CO2 emissions.

(Down to Earth)

Cotton and polyester are the two most commonly used materials in textile production, but the latter’s environmental impact is very worrying. Fast fashion pollution statistics suggest that the production of just one polyester T-shirt results in 262% more CO2 emissions than a cotton T-shirt.

Because it’s cheaper and easier to work with than cotton, polyester is quickly becoming the go-to material in fast fashion. However, replacing it with another recyclable material would result in a 90% reduction of dangerous substances, a 60% reduction in energy usage and, most importantly, 40% fewer emissions.

27. Washing clothes releases over half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean each year.

(Business Insider)

Fast fashion’s environmental impact is enormous, and the cycle of pollution doesn’t stop with producing and purchasing—washing clothes is also a major problem. The yearly quantity of microfibres released into the ocean during washing is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles.

The issue is even larger because roughly 60% of all garments utilise polyester. This compound doesn’t break down in the ocean water—a 2017 report found that 35% of all microplastic in the ocean is made of synthetic textiles like polyester.

28. By 2050, the fashion industry could be responsible for 26% of the world’s total carbon emission.

(The Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

Apart from all the accumulated waste, as evidenced by clothing waste statistics, the fashion industry is also responsible for one-tenth of all carbon emissions. That’s more than global maritime shipping and international flights combined. Experts warn that if the industry continues to develop at this rate, it will make up for 26% of the total carbon footprint by 2050.

In Conclusion

The convenience and pleasure fast-fashion brands provide are the driving forces of development in textile production and consumption. However, it seems that fast fashion’s negative aspects are slowly outweighing the positive ones. Its detrimental environmental impact is becoming harder to ignore. For this reason, as our overview showed, we’ll likely be focusing on developing sustainable ways of clothing production in the years to come.

FAQ

Why is fast fashion a problem?

Fast fashion is an environmental and a social issue. It causes enormous amounts of waste, it has a high carbon footprint and is the second most water-consuming industry. The other side of the fast fashion problem is the question of its supply chain. Workers in fast fashion are often poorly paid, the conditions in fast fashion factories are often dangerous, and there is the serious issue of modern slavery and child labour in the industry. 

How much waste is produced by fast fashion?

Waste is one of the biggest concerns when discussing the environmental impact of the fast-fashion industry. Since 2000, the amount of waste created by fast fashion has grown each year. The global textile waste from fashion industries currently makes up 20% of the entire planet’s waste, with an average of 92 million tonnes of discarded materials per year.

What percentage of fashion is fast fashion?

It’s difficult to tell the exact percentage as the line between fashion and fast-fashion production becomes more and more blurred with new brands coming up all the time.

In 2019, fast fashion had a 10%–20% share of the revenue in European fashion markets. The UK’s fashion market was worth £42 billion in 2019, which means that fast fashion was responsible for up to £8.4. billion of the total revenue. But the revenue might not be the best marker of fast fashion’s market share as its entire business premise relies on cheap garments.

What are the 3 consequences of fast fashion?

Fast fashion most notably affects the environment. In that regard, there are three critical consequences: the amount of waste, water consumption, and carbon emission. All three of these are significantly growing as fast fashion continues to develop, not only in terms of the units being produced but also the increasing use of highly polluting materials.

How fast does fashion harm the environment?

The fashion industry harms the environment both in production and in the consumption of goods. Its carbon emission is by far the most harmful effect—it currently accounts for 10% of the planet’s total carbon emission. Each year, the fashion industry also produces more than 92 billion tonnes of textile waste, which ends up filling up the landfills.

As new and cheaper collections appear, people buy more pieces, meaning that they’re washing clothes more often. This contributes to the release of microfibres and synthetic materials into the ocean. The industry is currently responsible for 60% of all microfibres released into the sea. However, these microfibres can’t break down.

What is fast fashion?

“Fast fashion” is a relatively new term to describe today’s dominant mode of fashion production and consumption. It refers to the speed at which fashion companies bring designs from high-fashion catwalks to street and mall stores. On average, brands used to put out two collections each year less than two decades ago. Currently, they offer up to 24.

As our overview of fast fashion statistics showed, to maintain the speed and low prices, the fast-fashion industry relies on cheap materials and labour, contributing to pollution and pay and gender inequality.

Sources:

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