Sometimes comedy is the most effective way to drive home a very serious message. That’s exactly what Hasan manages to achieve in his takedown of fast fashion – one of our industry’s most prominent contributors to environmental degradation. In this week’s commentary, we want to share our thoughts on the practice and our thoughts on where it is headed.
Why Fast Fashion is Such a Big Problem
It’s no secret that fast fashion has transformed how the textile industry operates. It has been the most dominating sector of the textile industry over the last 20 years and it has driven the industry to continuously figure out how to make things faster and cheaper. So why is it so successful? It’s because it allows regular people to feel like the rich and famous. Hasan points out an example of how Zara makes a $59 version of Cardi B promoted Balenciaga shoes that typically go for $800.
If the story of fast fashion ended at the fact that they provide cheap alternatives to high fashion, then it would be a positive story. The problem is that there is no such thing as cheap goods – someone is paying the price. In the case of fast fashion, the hidden costs are externalities such as poor working conditions and environmental degradation that our entire society has to pay for sooner or later.
Another problem is that fast fashion has been around long enough to train consumers to get the latest knockoff of every break out brand. They do this by continuously releasing new products – we went from having four major seasons for new fashion releases every year to having a major new release every week, that’s 52 seasons per year.
Fashion hungry consumers have responded by growing the amount of clothes they buy to 68 new articles per year, that’s a stunning 80 pounds of clothes per year. As the clothes fall out of fashion, they are discarded just after wearing them a few times. The fact that the clothes are made NOT to last, is also a factor that accelerates the rate at which they are discarded.
Aside from Hasan’s commentary, society as a whole is realizing the problems caused by fast fashion, especially with regards to resource use, waste and pollution that are its side effects. The big fast fashion brands have responded by green-washing marketing efforts, which seem to be working. So two questions remain: 1) What can be done to help alleviate the problems caused by fast fashion?, and 2) Should fast fashion continue to exist at all?
What is needed to make fast fashion sustainable?
Maybe the right question is: Should fast fashion even exist? For us, the answer is no, not in its current form anyways. Although eliminating fast fashion will cut into our bottom line, we just don’t see how we can stand by and support it while the world continues to degrade. We believe fast fashion must first slow down. This may require regulation or pushback from the consumers.
From the perspective of us individual consumers, the answer is simple. We should be more considerate about what we purchase and we should use what we purchase for a longer period of time. Of course, we don’t believe that only the rich and famous should have nice things. We will continue to need to make affordable clothing for our growing global population, but we should make them in a sustainable way.
We offer a few thoughts on what needs to happen in order for all of us to have a chance to dress like the rich and famous:
Use the right raw materials – from the outset of the design process, our industry should consider which materials are being used to create fabrics. These materials should be truly recyclable, not just down-cyclable.
Use low carbon processing – the entire production cycle should be analyzed and green processes should be implemented. We must use less energy and less resources when producing the quantities of clothes that are necessary to supply the almost 8 billion people.
Implement true circular economy – the bottom line is that true circular economy must be implemented, one where all the inputs are accounted for and don’t result in waste or pollution.