Spirals, Spikes and Spinning Wheels: Temporal models challenging the sustainability agenda in relation to fast fashion consumption

Journal article

Powell, H. (2021). Spirals, Spikes and Spinning Wheels: Temporal models challenging the sustainability agenda in relation to fast fashion consumption. Fashion, Style and Popular Culture. 8 (4), pp. 387-397. https://doi.org/10.1386/fspc_00098_1
AuthorsPowell, H.

Fast fashion has become a subject of interest to politicians as they grapple with the development of a sustainability strategy. To date the agenda has largely been informed by an examination of production methodologies and techniques documenting the rapid turnover of trends, the speed and efficiency of the production process and the lack of socially cohesive labour practices this consistently engenders. Whilst governments seek to raise awareness and begin to generate initiatives to tackle the environmental fall out of fast fashion, this paper turns its attention to the temporal patterns of consumer behaviour and why such a high percentage of what we buy is readily discarded soon after point of purchase. All stages in this linear model of consumption, it is argued, are shaped by a very specific relationship to time that ultimately informs our buying habits. Utilising the work of the philosopher A.N. Whitehead and adopting a more psychosocial approach to fashion consumption, this paper recognises that even when purposefully seeking to consume sustainably, a greater need to align our use of time with a results-driven mind set locates the acquisition of something new as a highly achievable goal. As a consequence, rather than positioning the rationale for fashion purchases in the context of conspicuous consumption and emulation, here it functions to mitigate a lack of temporal control in other areas of our lives. In response, it is proposed that any successful attempts at tackling the problems associated with fast fashion must also seek to understand the temporal dynamics of consumption. For whilst governments’ attention is turned to ways to reduce the environmental impact associated with the production of clothing, increasing consumer demand derived from ‘neophilia’ (Booker, 1970) will negate and indeed overturn any successes achieved. The conclusion will therefore suggest that promotional culture has a duty to explore ways in which it might engender greater emotional attachments to what we own. Future research into brand messaging, exploring the consequences of placing emphasis on quality over quantity and a subsequent potential deepening of a sense of brand loyalty, is also recommended as a way forward.

JournalFashion, Style and Popular Culture
Journal citation8 (4), pp. 387-397
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1386/fspc_00098_1
Publication dates
Print01 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted17 Feb 2020
Deposited28 Feb 2020
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Permalink -


Restricted files

Accepted author manuscript

  • 85
    total views
  • 6
    total downloads
  • 4
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

The Advertising Revolution: Past, Present and Future
Powell, H. (2021). The Advertising Revolution: Past, Present and Future. in: Stam, D., Blake, A. and Das, S. (ed.) Innovations In Magazine Publishing Abingdon Routledge.
Always On: Mobile Culture and Its Temporal Consequences
Powell, H (2017). Always On: Mobile Culture and Its Temporal Consequences. in: Prasad, S (ed.) Creative Mobile Media A Complete Course Wspc (Europe). pp. 99-119
The Advertising Handbook
Powell, Helen, Hardy, Jonathan and Macrury, Iain (2018). The Advertising Handbook. Routledge.