Fast Fashion and Sustainability: Going Slow Fashion and Circular
Fast Fashion – the term used to define the vast majority of fashion products today, was once the all-time solution to provide an affordable and fashionable garment to consumers as fast as possible and whilst the product remained the height of popularity.
Fast fashion describes clothing designs that move extremely quickly from the catwalk to high street stores; as such, it allows mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at affordable prices and replace them as and when fashion trends change.
However, fast fashion is now having a significant impact on our social and environmental factors due to the scale and size of manufacturing practices needed to produce such garments at a rapid turnaround rate.
Since the 1990s there has been significant increase in the number of brands using this fast fashion production method.
Many brands have taken advantage of the cheap raw materials and advancements in supply chain management to push out more collections within a shorter time frame; for example, Zara introduced 24 collections in 2016. Although there is no doubt that this production model has brought financial gain to its brands and retailers, the increased demand has also caused a significant increase of pressure to both the manufacturing sites and the environment.
Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion
The strong rise in demand and increased affordability of fashion items has led to a decreased utilization of clothes (number of times a single piece of clothing is worn before being thrown away) by consumers. As a result, manufacturers have had to source more non-renewable resources at a cost effective price and a higher demand for workers has led to low wages and an exploitation of workers.
Oil is needed to construct synthetic fibers; fertilizers are used to grow cotton and a variety of chemicals are needed to dye and finish the textile fibers. Fresh water is also used in the process with 200L needed to produce just 1kg of fabric.
In 2017, 53 million tons of fabrics were produced for fast fashion items.
Out of all the materials used, a whopping 73% are lost after the final garment use (thrown away by consumers), 10% during the production, and 2% to the landfills from manufacturers. This above process results in CO2 emissions and harmful chemicals all of which harm the environment and add to our carbon footprint
Circular Fashion: The Solution
Driven by the need to preserve the environment and its resources and in line with climate change commitments, today there is a series of alternative business models and perspectives transforming the fashion industry. A new circular fashion model has emerged ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’.
These new business models are a response to the increased demand from consumers and to help them reduce their environmental footprint and become more sustainable. One of these models is the clothing renting model, enabling users to enjoy new, replenished and fashionable items without stocking them up.
In parallel, due to increased pressure from both the conscious consumer and manufacturing policies, more and more fashion brands are looking at new and innovative ways to make less of an impact on today’s environment. The above developments add more pressure on the business, especially manufacturers.
Given the ongoing financial pressure, fierce competition and reduced margins, sustainable practices and environmental commitments are mostly seen as a burden by manufacturers and businesses. Furthermore, these practices come at an extra cost, rather than being an additional source of financial income.
“Sustainability and circularity don’t need to come at an extra cost.”
Was the thought of the team that launched Curatez where suppliers and manufacturers can now list any unused raw material, with a special section for environmentally friendly fresh material. This helps participants increase their exposure, manage their material and enhance their customer relationships.
Curatez is one of the companies looking for new ways to make a positive impact on our environment. Their platform allows buyers and sellers to search their community of trusted fashion and textiles industry members and also manage and trace material and production.
With fabric being responsible for around 50%-60% of a garment’s cost, and with around 3 million tons of wasted fabric per year, brands and designers can find a wide variety of affordable and high-quality surplus material for their designs for less than one third of the usual production cost. Manufacturers, on the other hand will be able to sell material that otherwise would be disposed of in landfill sites.
Such initiatives are taking the lead on paving a much brighter future for the industry and our planet.
By utilizing technology and innovative tools, fashion brands and manufacturers can reduce their costs and increase their revenue whilst meeting their sustainability targets and having a positive impact on the community and the environment.
Companies and ideas like Curatez contribute to keeping landfills empty, decreasing the need for new material (and the associated pressure on our natural resources and hazardous material) and generating new revenue streams for brands and manufacturers.