Can Fast Fashion and Sustainability Coexist?

As far as sustainability is concerned, fast fashion still has a long way to go. Because fast fashion is characterized by the long turnaround times needed for new product lines and ranges, it cannot be considered sustainable. The problem is not just environmental, however; it is also ethical. 94 percent of brands in 2020 failed to pay their garment workers a living wage. Therefore, the question is, is fast fashion popular? Is fast fashion harmful to the environment? Which materials are environmentally friendly?

Effects on the Environment

In order to meet consumer demands, fast fashion refers to cheap, trendy clothing that is inspired by the catwalk or celebrity culture, but tailored in high street stores at breakneck speed.

Faster and more intense demand and production pose the greatest challenge. Clothing production is the world’s third most important manufacturing industry, behind technology and automotive. Carbon emissions from the fashion industry amount to approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, fashion production cycles that use open-loop systems contribute to pollution of both land and water. Also, pesticide misuse in the fashion industry accounts for 10 to 20 percent of the harmful use of chemicals.

Having too many clothes in circulation, consuming and discarding is one of the problems. Major fast fashion stores introduce new lines daily, barely a week after their designer counterparts’ debut. Sadly, many consumers consider fast fashion pieces disposable. A radical shift in fast fashion will be one of the things we have to do to combat climate change.

What Makes Fast Fashion Popular?

While many factors have contributed to fast fashion’s success, like retailer Boohoo and ASOS, there have also been other factors behind its rise. These brands are notable for their ability to engage with their millennial consumers and make them come back for more. It happens by keeping up with the high demand for new fashion.

Our tendency to see clothes as short-term tools rather than long-term investments leads us to wasteful consumption patterns and it is these patterns that eventually lead to drastic climate change. Having the ability to manufacture cheaply means that fast fashion companies can sell their garments for a competitive price, which is a critical enabler.

How to Make Fashion Brands More Sustainable

There is still hope that fast fashion and sustainability can come to an amicable compromise, despite the appearance that a cease-fire is unlikely. Environmental awareness and conscious shopping are becoming commonplace. In addition to their shopping habits, this shift brings into focus the manufacturing process. To become more sustainable brands can start by making their supply chains more transparent. Other things that could help are collaborating with other sustainable brands, eco-friendly packaging, renewable energy provider, recycling, design less frequently, etc.