Fashion shouldn't cost lives and it shouldn't cost us our planet. Yet this is what is happening today. Globalisation, fast fashion, economies of scale, social media and offshore production have created a perfect storm...
The fast-fashion business model itself is the very antithesis to sustainability.
Some ideas that have been presented by fast-fashion companies include recycling. But even if garments are collected in-store, the capabilities to recycle clothing at the scale needed for current production rates do not exist. It’s also typically more energy-intensive to recycle than to produce new products.
Another concept, the one put forth recently by Zara, is to use only sustainable fabrics. But switching to sustainable fabrics while producing fashion clothing under the same model will not make any fast-fashion retailer sustainable.
There is no such thing as a 100 per cent sustainable fabric. Fabrics require a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources to produce. Sustainable fabrics are just less harmful by reducing their environmental impact.
I spend a lot of time reading the corporate social responsibility reports of larger brands and interviewing micro-to-small sized enterprises to see how they approach sustainability. The largest significant difference between the two entities is culture.
Small brands focus on creating a culture of sustainability by producing less from the onset. They use strategies like producing made-to-order, so they are not making more than what is sold. They do this because waste is one of their biggest concerns. They also design clothing to be of the highest quality, ensuring durability and longevity, so clothes last a long time in your wardrobe. They will also repair your clothing so that you may keep it longer.
Nominations are open for the inaugural Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards, which recognise Southern African designers who have implemented a sustainable design approach...
10 Jul 2019
The most significant difference is that most small brands are opting to work under an “anti-fashion calendar.” They deliberately chose not to follow the intense seasonal calendar that fashion functions under. Instead, they produce as needed. This is the opposite of how large companies function.
Large global corporate retailers are not seeking to change their fundamental business model or create cultures of sustainability. That would require re-working their entire business structure.
Corporate social irresponsibility
The fast-fashion growth model used by all large companies is predicated on limitless growth and disposable consumption.
Corporate brands and retailers provide statistics about their environmental impact reductions within their supply chains. Unlike annual financial reports, corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports are voluntary and not verified externally. Also, the way they measure their improvements is not consistent or standardized. Therefore, consumers can’t compare one company to another without doing some wizard math.
Fast fashion is a “grow or die” business. And fast fashion continues to export this western consumerism into the Global South: this could have disastrous consequences. This is the paradox at the heart of western consumerist culture and one that goes beyond fast-fashion industry. Neoliberal capitalist economies require continuous consumption and define success through growth – concepts at odds with sustainability. Business growth must be decoupled from resource use.
Zara owner Inditex has announced plans to have all its brands available to purchase online anywhere in the world by 2020...
6 Sep 2018
One small step could be to offer repair or tailoring services. Tailoring creates clothes that fit impeccably, subsequently increasing their emotional value. I believe that when garments fit well and are flattering to our body, we love them, and we keep them longer.
For the benefit of the earth and humanity, large brands need to look at how to move away from their continuous offerings of weekly new products. If these kind of changes were to occur, I would start to believe Zara and other fashion brands had good intentions to curb climate change.
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