Home » As thousands flock to a ‘fast fashion’ festival, local labels say they’re struggling to stay afloat

As thousands flock to a ‘fast fashion’ festival, local labels say they’re struggling to stay afloat

As thousands flock to a ‘fast fashion’ festival, local labels say they’re struggling to stay afloat

While thousands of shoppers hunt bargains at a cheap clothing event, one Australian label is shutting down as local designers struggle to compete against ‘fast fashion’ producers.

Australia has in the past sent the majority of its fashion manufacturing offshore, meaning textiles can be mass-produced at a low price.

As the cost-of-living crisis fuels demand for affordable clothing, Australians continue to access cheap fashion on a global scale, largely thanks to the growth of online ‘fast fashion’ sites.

Thousands of people attended the cheap fashion pop-up in Perth.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

Fast fashion is a term coined to describe clothing that is manufactured quickly, on a mass scale.

This weekend a multi-billion-dollar online clothing platform gave Perth shoppers the opportunity to buy their garments in person.

Ellise was the first through the doors.

“I’ve been waiting here since 6am, it was really dark,” she said.

A woman named Ellise wearing pink clothing and smiling for the camera.

Shopper Ellise at the event. (ABC News: Grace Burmas)

“They have very unique designs, I’m very excited that they’ve come over to Perth.”

Crowds lined the car park of Claremont Showgrounds for hours, ready to buy big and buy cheap.

A large crowd lining up for a fashion event in Perth

People spent hours waiting to get into the event.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

“[It cost] $130 for all three of these items which was an absolute bargain because I think if you were to go somewhere else it would be I think $500 to $600,” Ellise said.

Monopoly on manufacturing

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.

A woman named Shannon Malone stands next to a rack of clothing.

Perth designer Shannon Malone says she can’t compete with fast fashion brands.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

With one employee, Ms Malone would design, cut, and sew clothing from her studio in Perth.

“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.”

A woman named Shannon Malone fold an item of clothing.

Shannon Malone is closing her fashion label after four years.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

Ms Malone’s is one of many Australian-made labels shutting up shop in a growing battle to compete with global online business.

“It feels like every week there is a small business closing down,” she said.

“It’s going to become very rare to find clothing made in Australia.”

‘Real double standard’

Australians have become the biggest consumers of clothing per capita in the world, according to research from the Australia Institute.

The 2024 analysis revealed Australian’s 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.

A rack of women's clothing

Australians buy an average of 50 clothing items a year.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

Ms Malone said offloading manufacturing overseas has disconnected people from understanding what goes into making a sustainable and durable product.

“Whenever there’s a stitch on a garment, it’s a person behind the machine,” Ms Malone said.

“More and more households and consumers are wanting to know where our food has come from, where have our eggs come from … but that’s not the case with clothes at all.

“There’s a real double standard.”

Small brand struggle

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.

The result is clothing with a shorter life span.

A woman named Luka Rey stands in a fashion design studio.

Perth fashion designer Luka Rey. (ABC News: Grace Burmas)

“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.

“But that’s obviously not something that I would feel comfortable doing.”

Ms Rey said small brands charge a higher price point because their products are made usually from expensive materials in small amounts.

Luka Rey using a sewing machine.

Ms Rey said local brands would continue to disappear without customer support.(ABC News: Grace Burmas )

She said the argument of supporting local 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.

A woman named Luka Rey stands in a fashion design studio.

Ms Rey recognised not everyone could afford clothing produced using more expensive materials.(ABC News: Grace Burmas)

“I don’t think it’s fair to necessarily say that everyone should just be spending more, but it’s about encouraging people to keep their values in check.

“If you want to live in a world where diverse creativity exists, then you need to support it, otherwise it’s just going to disappear.”

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