Fast fashion is challenging sustainability - and big brands

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Fast fashion has permeated the lucrative fashion industry to cater to the budget-friendly, trend-conscious consumer, thereby drawing a bridge between the catwalk and retail stores.

Fast fashion is a sophisticated business encapsulating a fragmented, low-cost production system and interactive technology. The profit margins are handsome if a business can secure first-mover advantage, capitalizing on trends before its competitors.

The substantial increase in clothing demand globally has spiked low-cost production capacities, thereby inflicting pressure on the environment. The low cost and high speed at which garments enter retail channels facilitate quick disposal with evolving fashion trends, leading to an increase in textile waste.

Fast fashion has a massive environmental footprint. Toxic chemicals and harmful dyes seep into water supplies of developing and under-developed nations where clothing is manufactured, resulting in huge environmental degradation. Lead, pesticides, and countless other chemicals used in the manufacturing process pose a substantial threat to the workers and the consumers eventually. Some of the popular fabrics that are used contribute significantly to global warming. Synthetic fibers are a prime example; polyester is a popular fabric in fast fashion, and a high emissions producer gave it is manufactured from fossil fuels.

Fast fashion also leads to exploitation of garment workers who need to work in dangerous environments at meager daily wages with no human rights charters protecting them. Further down the supply chain, farmers who work with toxic chemicals to deliver produce cheap and fast suffer physical and mental ill-health.

Fast fashion has permeated the lucrative fashion industry to cater to the budget friendly, trend conscious consumer

The textile waste and toxic chemicals pose a great threat to animal life, thus accelerating the move towards a more circular garment production model. Fast fashion is paving the way towards slow fashion, driving awareness around processes and environmentally friendly and sustainable resources. Slow fashion values quality, fair trade, fair treatment, and durability, therefore protecting people, planet, and habitat.

Increasingly big brands and corporates embrace a sustainable approach by encouraging consumers to look for quality over quantity and produce environmentally-friendly collections using sustainable materials.

Fashion companies can drive the corporate social responsibility agenda by adopting sustainability strategies and ensuring the environmental impact is minimal. Sustainability is a progressive issue in the fashion industry as brands adapt and position themselves to appeal to customers driving the sustainability agenda. Fast fashion needs to quickly evolve to appeal to the younger consumers who are keen to celebrate transparency, inclusion, and sustainability, else diminish its attractiveness.

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