Amicable co-occurrence: Fast fashion and sustainable fashion will coexist

Much has been told about fast fashion causing a big upheaval to the environment and sustainable fashion being the torchbearer of hope. However, in reality can the two coexist or one take traits of the other to present to the market a new hybrid?

According to a report by McKinsey the world consumes in excess of 100 billion pieces of clothing a year. As a whole, the industry is responsible for 92 million tons of waste dumped in landfills every year. Another statistics showed that washing of synthetic textiles is contributing in majority towards microplastic pollution – much of which is produced by fast fashion brands.

Major fast fashion brands from across the globe, owing to these factors have been brought under the radar time and again. However, it is not easy to say goodbye to fast fashion. If we look closely at the pocket size of people across economies, a majority will not be able to spend big on clothing and apparel. Yet that is very basic! In this scenario, how can we imagine a world without affordable fashion, which is more commonly known as ‘fast fashion’?

Sustainable fashion is expensive

The industry, consumers, brands, and probably the entire supply chain has been debating this one thought for long –Why sustainable fashion is pricey. It is a hard truth and when you switch to clean processes and ethical production, implementing new technology is imperative of keeping the process as ethical as possible. On the other hand, Fast fashion is a sophisticated business fed by a fragmented and relatively low-tech production system.

So when you compare the two, it is evident that the former will be expensive as compared to the latter. However, we are not making clothes for a niche audience and are making it for the masses. In that scenario, if following the sustainable approach is not sustainable in real sense and a majority misses the bus, then how is the whole process sustainable and time-tested?

Fast fashion can bend the rule

Given the demand for fast fashion and affordability winning over niche consumption, fast fashion today is capable of turning production towards safer grounds. After all, the idea is to keep the environment and society safe, whatever comes. So, holding this as the seed of change, let’s try and look at ways in which big corporations are walking the eco-friendly path.

Most of them are working towards creating a robust and transparent supply chain, which boasts of traceability and highlights the nodes of sourcing, material details etc. This helps brands know who is supplying what to them and in this basis they can choose environment-friendly suppliers to make their approach more responsible.

Further, creating a stronger approach brands are looking to partner with sustainable branding partners and switching to renewable energy providers in order to make the production path highly environment-friendly.

The idea is to make responsible approach a norm and to do that brands are collectively adapting eco-friendly packaging, so that it does not add to the landfill over time.

Recycling is also a powerful strategy, which many popular brands are adapting at the moment. As a consumer one has to say yes to this process and actually commit to dumping their old clothes to the brand store, rather than dumping it out. To inspire the consumer to make a conscious decision, brands are offering discounts and gift vouchers in exchange of their efforts to give back the brand their old clothes. In return, brands use these clothes to recycle them and turn them into threads so that they can use it back in the production process.

The pandemic has already disrupted the equation of the market and today fashion is no more a seasonal universe, in majority. With consumers demanding comfortable clothing and something that fits their work from home wardrobe, brands are experimenting with designs that are timeless and versatile. They do not want to just push the customer to keep buying what’s in trend, but want them to own something they can create multiple looks with.

Brands are also consciously reducing their waste creation by taking an effort to utilize offcut fabrics and materials. They are not only taking a special approach to make the production free of wastages, but in case of wastages they are also thinking of innovative ways to utilize the same in their new collection. This helps them create a very responsible and human path, which keeps the welfare of living beings and society at the core of their functions.

In an effort to walk the responsible path, big corporations like Inditex, GAP, and the likes have partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative and committed to use raw material from sustainable suppliers only. Most of these corporations are pledging to go sustainable by 2025. With the Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit that works with farmers to adopt more socially and environmentally sustainable practices, retailers pledge that 100 percent of its polyester will be recycled.


Fast fashion will stay

In future also the retailers will continue their efforts to turn eco-friendly by reducing their dependency on renewable energy or non-sustainable raw materials. But, keeping in mind the growing need to serve the masses on an affordable price tag, fast fashion has to stay. Also, this industry employs a big pool of workers, boasts productions, and supports the supply chain of the textile industry like no other. The idea is to become responsible and commit to saving the earth, but not at the stake of shutting down industry and making the economy suffer. Niche sustainable brands yield a fraction of production that these fast fashion brands are capable of, they can only fulfill the niche need gap of the market. But to fuel the growth of the industry fast fashion has to survive.

However, there is no denying that the approach needs to be tweaked in favour of the climate, earth, society, and humanity. The retailers and brands have already started pivoting ‘eco’ stores to use at least 20 percent less electricity and 40 percent less water than conventional stores. This added with their other efforts concerning the supply chain, production, and every other aspect will surely collectively help us walk towards a greener future by mutually co-existing.


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