The fashion industry has experienced multifarious transformations while having more resilience and the ability to handle challenges. In this era, the industry is also returning to growth as new digital frontiers, technological advances, and changes in customer preferences become the norm. The fashion customer base today has a variety of choices at their fingertips, and they have become more informed, impatient, and volatile in terms of their purchases. Their purchases now include thorough online research while seeking current trends, optimum product quality, and a brand's manufacturing ethic. Moreover, they expect to get delivery of their products at their doorsteps within a few hours.
In accordance with that, the competition has also become tough while the demand-supply process has become fast-paced. These new behavior patterns of consumers have paved the path for fast fashion, where production is based on the response to upcoming trends. However, due to the changing market demands, the manufacturing standards are changing, as the customers are preferring sustainability from the brands. Therefore, fashion manufacturers and brands need to rethink and re-angle the ways to amalgamate fast fashion and sustainability in their production schema in order to stay responsive to market trends and create a positive consumer impact.
Fast Fashion and Sustainable Fashion: Can They Co-Exist?
In every industry, consumers are the most significant part of the ecosystem, as they have the buying power in their hands. Consumers are now becoming more aware of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and are demanding more sustainable methods. As a result, shopping habits are undergoing a paradigm shift, while manufacturing processes are changing as well. Although it seems that fast fashion and sustainable fashion cannot tie knots. However, building a bridge between them is the need of the hour.
It is to be noted that the idea of sustainable fashion does not overshadow or shame fast fashion. In a way, it improves the techniques of fast fashion in terms of being more environmentally friendly and ethical. It is nearly impossible to discard the concept of fast fashion on a universal scale. Today, the fast fashion industry is considered among the top polluting domains; however, the coexistence of sustainable fashion and fast fashion can bring about a huge change. By only switching to recycled materials and natural fibers, the industry can help decrease its carbon footprint over the coming years. These little steps can be powerful in the long run and can positively influence climatic conditions. What fashion brands must do is stay concrete with their sustainability plans and follow best practices to go green. Moreover, they also need to allow customers to adapt to this change.
In terms of sustainability, the fashion industry is moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, it is still taking time to see a visible change at a rapid pace. Fast fashion is almost the opposite of sustainable fashion, but companies have to figure out how to cope with market changes while adhering to sustainability practices. Let us delve into some of the methods that would bridge the gap between sustainable fashion and fast fashion.
Consider the Circular Fashion
In the traditional setting, the fashion industry follows a linear model that includes design, manufacturing, finished product, consumption, and disposal. This method usually does not have a scope for recycling or reusing resources at any stage and thus results in excess wastage. The global fashion industry generates this waste, which is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, as the best sustainability practice, circular fashion must be considered.
The circular fashion economy envisions reducing the amount of waste created by the industry while encouraging the use of methods such as recycling and using regenerative and sustainable materials. At its core, it challenges the practice of the linear fashion model and proposes that the clothes must be designed, manufactured, delivered, and collected in a cyclic way. These steps will enable the reuse and recycling of post-consumer textiles on a huge scale and minimize all sorts of waste.
Using New-Age Design Methods: Digital fashion houses claim that replacing actual garments with digital samples during the design and development stage can reduce a brand's carbon footprint by 30%. Physical material samples may be redundant with the advent of 3D virtual sampling. A finished garment may necessitate up to 20 samples.
Some clothing can be designed to be disassembled at the end of its life cycle, making it easier for the parts to be recycled or upcycled into another garment. Other garments are reversible or designed with parts that can be removed or added to make them multifunctional.
Reducing Waste: 80 to 90 percent of the sustainability of merchandise items is determined at the stage of the design. Therefore, to reduce waste, designing the garment in a sustainable manner is the need of the hour. Fifteen percent of the fabric usually ends on the cutting floor while manufacturing a garment. Therefore, in order to follow a zero-waste pattern, the fabric can be arranged as a Tetris puzzle. Moreover, geometric concepts can be employed in order to use every inch of the material. Furthermore, draping and knitting as methods of design can be used wherever possible to reduce the amount of waste.
Using Alternative Materials: As a suitable practice, raw materials that are generally used in garment manufacturing must be replaced with more sustainable alternative materials. Natural materials such as hemp, ramie, and bamboo can be considered instead of cotton. However, some fashion brands are also turning towards organic cotton that is grown without any toxic chemicals. In addition, fully biodegradable and recyclable yarns and fabrics can be used, which can be obtained by natural processes without harming the trees.
Some fashion brands are also researching ways to minimize the environmental impact of their garment production, while others are working to develop methods of recycling clothes that decompose in a matter of months when properly disposed of. Furthermore, switching to recycled polyester fabric can also aid in reducing carbon emissions because recycled polyester emits half to a quarter of what virgin polyester does.
All Things Considered
Sustainable fashion is often considered slow fashion, but that is not the case. We can term sustainable fashion ‘mindful and smart fashion’, as it considers the benefit of the planet and the people. To safeguard the future of the planet, the gap between trending fashion and sustainable fashion must be bridged. To break the traditional barriers, it must include all the areas of function, including textiles, garment manufacturing, recycling, and the circular fashion economy.
Many more fashion companies will shift toward sustainability in the coming years, and the industry will see a shift in consumer spending habits. To make sustainable fashion popular, the consumers are the key. If they want industries to adopt sustainable manufacturing practices, they must elevate the demand in the markets. As the consumers demonstrate their concerns regarding sustainable fashion, the brands will respond accordingly.
Moreover, if the companies promote sustainable clothing, customers will purchase it accordingly with increased interest. Every participant, including people, brands, and the planet, is intertwined in the pursuit of sustainability, particularly in the fashion industry. Therefore, they must work together to create a sustainable ecosystem.