Forbes youngest billionaire Kylie Jenner wore a fuchsia pink outfit for an event and within twenty-four bourse cheap knock offs and similar styles were available online for sale. This cycle of identifying trends and manufacturing said trends using inexpensive material within a small period of time is called Fast Fashion. It is a faster turnaround model where more collections are released per year at lower prices to maximize profit and increase customer satisfaction.
Spanish retailer Zara made a record of making largest number of sales in a day when it was launched in India in 2010.The consumption pattern of masses has changed significantly over past few decades. Consumers want to have trendy clothes, but they also don’t want to shell out lot of money for those garments. This has increased the reliance on cheap disposable items which has given rise to fast fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M and Zara. When H&M collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, they launched a capsule collection which was an affordable version of the Lagerfeld aesthetics. This gave way to the trend of collaborations between high fashion and high end and glamorizing disposable clothing neglecting its harmful effects on the environment. Celebrity culture and the need to dress up like a celebrity is leading to categories like Look for less or get this look making fast fashion popular.
Since fast fashion is not eco friendly and customers wind up wearing the clothing item once or twice before throwing it away. This throw away culture of cheap single purchase items is contributing more to climate change than aeronautical and shipping industry combined. Fashion industry it only accounts for greenhouse emission of 1.2 billion tonnes a year but is also the largest consumer of fresh water. Cheaper clothes were a success mantra for fast fashion. Rands for several years but growing awareness about climate change, global warming and rising sea levels is diverting people towards more sustainable and eco friendly approaches.
According to McKinsey index, more than half of fast fashion items is thrown away in less than a year and only percent of the materials used to produce clothing globally is recycled with twelve percent of it recycled as insulated or mattresses stuffing which ultimately ends up in landfills. Researches also suggests the consumers have already begun buying less clothing with H&M experiencing drops in first quarter profit and Forever 21 potentially considering filling for bankruptcy.
The economy is growing but employment is low, wages are rebounding, and factory workers have little to no working rights. The Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013 opened up the discussions about working rights for factory workers who do not earn minimum wage even after working overtime under harsh conditions. Consumers are getting conscious of what they are wearing and are interested in knowing about the background of their clothes prompting the #WhoMadeMyClothes. Consumers also prefer buying from companies which are environmentally conscious and trying to reduce their carbon footprints and impact on the environment.
Small scale retailers and independent designers are adopting the organic way and using hand woven, hand yarned and naturally dyed fabrics. Applications like reGAIN are also helping people understand recycling so they can recycle their unwanted clothing and believe that fast fashion is a social problem and not just limited to a particular industry. The current sustainable movement is also leading to environmentally conscious innovation. Unbound Merino is a startup brand which has created a T-shirt that can go weeks without being washed hence saving water consumption. Similar design was created by Eco-friendly Brand Pangaia, whichmade a sea weed T-shirt infused with peppermint oil to keep short fresher between longer washes.
Making Sustainability and Fast Fashion go together is the biggest question of current time with Inditex announcing its plan to two more sustainable and switching to cotton, linen and polyester that’s organic, sustainable or recycled by 2025. The approach sounds beneficial as these materialsuse less water, energy and chemicals. Cheap fashion comes with social and environmental cost and a circular textile economy is need of the hour to make fashion sustainable.
The article has been penned down by Rupal Dalal, Executive Director, JD Institute of Fashion Technology