Can Fast fashion & sustainability co-exist?admin
Fast Fashion, the superstar of the fashion industry since the early 2000s, has started witnessing a slight drop in its popularity lately. Fashion consumers have become more compassionate towards their existing wardrobe attires, and abandon their old fashion buds less frequently. McKinsey Global Fashion Index registered a comparatively lower profit figure for Inditex, a pioneer in fast fashion, in 2019.
Let’s go back to its booming days.
Fashion brands like ZARA, H&M, Next & Forever 21 took over the major chunk of customers by introducing new collections weekly or bi-weekly, with low prices & an average quality. The annual production of apparel doubled from 2000 to 2014, and the number of garments purchased per shopper surged by about 60 percent during this time. These practices resulted in a dump of clothing, accelerating the decomposing effect on our environment. With this realization, and with the involvement of the environmental activists, the fast fashion brands have started watching out their course of action.
Does that mean they have slowed down?
Not really! These brands are still in the game. They are fuelling their fast fashion model by integrating it with a few sustainable business models. Business models like accepting old clothes in return for a discount on the new ones; renting the garments/ fashion products instead of buying them; breaking down the clothes into fibers & then re-spinning into yarns to developing new fabrics; reducing the use of single-use plastics for packaging and many more. All of these business models might not work alone towards achieving the sustainability goals of our fashion industry unless the consumption is done thoughtfully.
The higher the number of garments produced, the higher will be the amount of discarded garments and the more will be the efforts & resources required to recycle the waste clothes. The year 2019 witnessed clothing production of more than 150 billion garments for only 7 billion people. This is double the number being produced in 2004. On the contrary, the number of times a garment was worn before disposing of, decreased by 36%. It has been monitored by CBC Canada that used apparel products being taken back for reuse & recycling are often sent to countries overseas, where they find little use.
The majority of the UK consumers claim to contribute towards sustainability by either donating their clothes or chucking them away in recycling bins. However, the analysis reports tell a different story. Only 13% of the discarded garments are recycled globally and less than 1% is converted into new products. Talking about the Australian consumers, 27 kilos of new textiles per year are bought by an average shopper, out of which 23 kilos go to the landfill as waste.
All these findings taint the efforts of fast fashion brands towards reducing the negative contribution to the environment. Moreover, sustainable fashion is not only about sustainable products or having sustainable practices across the supply chain. We need to understand that the production process itself is one of the main culprits of degrading our environment. Churning out the old garments and breaking them down into fibers is an additional process added to the list, which will indeed require resources. Programs like, “Moving the Needle”, have been started to reduce the waste from Apparel Industry.
This program was initiated by the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, Salvos Stores, St Vincent de Paul, Australian Red Cross, and the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organizations. It aims at reducing the total textile waste by 20% by the year 2022. It collaborates with both the brands & the consumers to work together in the campaign. Such programs work upon one side of the story.
The other side, if ignored, can give rise to other kinds of problems failing the ultimate goal of sustainability. However, bio-degradable materials can be one of the supporters of fast fashion businesses, but we have to watch out our fast fashion habits to save our planet.
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