Stall the Haul on Fast Fashion

Imagine a cute t-shirt as a McDonald’s hamburger–cheap, mass-produced, poor quality.  Got a picture? Now you know what fast fashion looks like. 

While McDonald’s serves 2.36 billion burgers a year, the fashion industry is way ahead of that corporation and produces 80 billion garments a year

In her YouTube video, vintage clothing collector Mina Le talks about the crimes of fast fashion–terrible working conditions, the theft of designs, devaluing labor through cheap prices, and the negative environmental impact.

But rather than go to the tried-and-true scapegoat of capitalism like she does, her fans come up with three viable suggestions.  With a stellar marketing team and a big budget, these suggestions can be turned into strategies to solve the fast fashion crisis and hasten the return of slow fashion. 

Strategy #1: Make Washing Machines Top-of-Mind

The nice thing about dealing with clothes instead of burgers is that clothes can be washed and worn again, which seems like a given, right?

However, fans note that fast fashion consumers have forgotten that they have washing machines.

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Any good marketer knows that this is a top-of-mind problem that requires a carefully constructed plan.

First, the market should be segmented into the following: 

  • Aspirers: Consumers who aspire to have their own washing machine.
  • Under-leveraged: Consumers who have an excessively low ratio of washing machine use to clothing capital.  
  • Enthusiasts: Those who love clothes and also strive to be more environmentally conscious.

Then, each segment would have a unique campaign around these central ideas.  

  • Aspirers do not have a washing machine, likely due to space limitations or lack of money.  Campaigns should focus on effectively using a washboard, saving money for a small washing machine, or utilizing the app for local washing machine sharing.
  • Under-leveraged consumers probably need the incentive to make an effort to use their washing machines more frequently rather than go out and buy new clothes.  Using influencers such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Miley Cyrus, or Beyonce and showing them washing their clothes and having fun at the same time would resonate with this segment.
  • Campaigns for Enthusiasts should focus on the environmental benefits of washing their clothes and how they can convert their non-believing friends through banners and baseball caps emblazoned with MWGA (Make Washing Great Again).  A focus on the good old days where washing, mending, and reusing clothes until they are threadbare will also be appealing to this group.

With the increased awareness of washing machines, the use of technology and influencers, and the clever marketing swag, there should be a significant decrease in fast fashion purchases within the next two to twenty years.

Strategy #2: Nail the Narrative

Words create reality.  The problem with slow fashion brands is that they haven’t used persuasive language to appeal to different generations.  They use boring language and big words like sustainability, renewable plant-based fibers, and eco-friendly packaging. 

Fans are on it when they suggest several ways to change perceptions by changing the narrative.  Slow fashion could really get a leg up on fast fashion if they used these tactics.

Consider the word pre-owned. 

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The auto industry has added value to used cars by inspecting, repairing, and warranting certain cars and labeling them “certified, pre-owned.” Why not push something similar for the wardrobes of the general public? Celebrities like the Kardashians have been selling their worn clothes since 2019 through Kardashian Kloset.  

With the right retargeting strategy and a gentle version of “Thrift Shop” as the theme song, even the closet of your grandma could be certified, pre-owned: 

“This beautiful vintage black wool wide brim hat is a one-owner, low mileage piece.  It was only worn to Sunday church services during good weather.  It has the standard trim package of ribbon band and bow in metallic black. It is in great condition with no dents in the brim.”

Another tactic is promoting exciting challenges to offset the grim narrative slow fashion usually uses.  Nobody wants to hear about greenhouse gases, landfills, or contaminated wastewater, but everyone wants to have fun!

Instead of “Haul Challenges” that promote overconsumption, slow fashion proponents could use TikTok influencers to elevate different challenges such as:

“The Rewear and Reboot Challenges”

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What’s a more creative and exhilarating challenge than using the same five garments to produce five different looks? And this is setting the bar low as there are a possible 120 different combinations for five items. Maybe it will inspire new fashion trends such as sock neckties.

Or what about the “I’ve Got the Oldest ____ Challenge.”

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TikTokers worldwide will fight to have the record for the oldest pair of jeans that they still wear. This challenge will also appeal to the older generations as they have a distinct advantage in the longevity of garments.

Without a simple-worded narrative with an appeal to popularity and competitiveness across the generations, slow fashion has no hope of outlasting the fast fashion brands.

Strategy #3: Promote “Be Like Gon”

One way to avoid fast fashion and incorporate slow fashion is by having fewer but higher quality garments. 

Fans cued in on the popularity of anime and how the fans’ adoration could be used to promote a smaller wardrobe.

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Marketing old-timers should immediately recognize “Be Like Gon” as the anime knock-off version of the successful “Be Like Mike” campaign in which Michael Jordan drinks Gatorade in orchestrated scenes of intense competition, frolicking neighborhood play, and sweaty grins.

Gon Freecss, the main protagonist of Hunter x Hunter, is the perfect anime character to use.  He is well-known but not overdone in popularity as he doesn’t make the top 10 list.  He has a friendly, kind, and forgiving personality, so he is likely to appeal to many audiences.  In addition, he wears the color green, which is restful and relaxing.  People think of growth and renewal when they see green.

Of course, he has some character flaws but so did Michael Jordan, and that didn’t stop his popularity.  

The commercial should begin with footage of Gon winning arm wrestling competitions and using his enhanced speed and reflexes to avoid attacks and beat his enemies.  All sweaty and hot, he would then be shown washing his clothes and hanging them up to dry before taking out a clean uniform from a closet full of green jackets and shorts.  Then there would be scenes of small anime children from various shows trying to replicate his moves and then washing their clothes.  Gon should also be interacting with common anime characters in different living conditions while smiling and trailing soap suds.  

The “Be Like Gon” campaign will effectively convince consumers to go with a uniformed look that would require less purchasing and consumption of fast fashion. Subsequent campaigns can focus on other trending anime characters who have a uniform look.

In conclusion, it’s easy to blame everything on capitalism, but what Mina Le’s fans show us is that slow fashion isn’t trying hard enough.  With poor consumer insight, a boring narrative with no exciting social media challenges, and a failure to leverage current trends, slow fashion has plenty of work to do. With a few good marketing strategies, like the ones suggested here, fast fashion will soon die like the McSalad Shakers did in 2003, and slow fashion will reign eternally like McDonald’s french fries.


When she is not cruising the comment sections for ways to inject her dark humor, Ursula Saqui, Ph.D., drinks tea, runs, and practices being a foodie.  Find her everywhere at UrsulaSaqui.

Categories: Essay

Daily Drunk

Shawn Berman runs The Daily Drunk. You can follow him on Twitter @Sbb_writer.

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