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SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

Updated: Aug 28

Anonymous, Nigeria


All this I see; and see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man _William Shakespeare.


The importance of fashion and the role it plays in the society cannot be overemphasized. The editorial policy of Fashion theory; The Journal of Dress Body and Culture defines fashion as “the cultural construction of the embodied identity.” (Steele). Fashion mirrors our individuality and provides a sense of belonging by connecting us to larger social groups. Therefore, it is no surprise that the fashion industry is one of the most globalized, most influential and most essential industry in today’s world. History has overtime shown us that a country’s economy can be developed through the fashion industry. According to a Report, The Fashion industry is the third biggest manufacturing industry coming after the technology and automotive sector. (Fashion Revolution)




The inevitability of the emergence of Fast Fashion is grounded on the obvious fact that the industry has dramatically scaled up, operating on an unending drive for speed, making fashion accessible to people worldwide. Fast Fashion is a term that describes a novel fast-tracked commercial fashion model. According to Annie Radner Linden “The fast fashion industry is a sector of the fashion industry that was developed in Europe to meet the rapidly changing preferences of primarily young women who want to follow trends in fashion but at a fraction of the cost.” (Linden). Cohen opines that the fast fashion prototype is a “streamlined system involving rapid design, production, distribution, and marketing.”(Cohen)


Fast fashion is very volatile by nature as it is nurtured by trends. The nature of Fast Fashion has made it a global phenomenon with indication of widespread clothing consumption, motivated by increased availability and accessibility, affordability and the prevalence of social media use and its influence on consumer buying culture. Due to the affordability of Fast Fashion products, every echelon of the society can participate in the pleasures of being in tune with the fashion trends of the day leading to increased consumer demands and manufacturer supply.


However, because of the immense scale of the fashion industry, fast fashion can be described as disposable fashion. The operations of fast fashion, from the heavy consumption of depleting natural resources to pollution with waste products have brought significant negative consequence on the environment. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation data shows that textile production produces green house emissions exceeding the international aviation and maritime shipping combined and if it keeps up at this rate, it could account ¼ of the world’s global emissions by 2050 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). In a report from the United Nations, it is stated that by 2050 the resources needed for the sustenance of our current existence with the rate of population growth will be the equivalent of three planets (United Nations). The Fast Fashion industry has created an environmental crises from its use of natural resources in the most exploitative and unsustainable manner recorded in history. The worldwide consumption and production of fashion items relies heavily on the environment and its resources leading to its destruction.



Fast fashion in its nature and purpose is very unsustainable. For the sake of the continued existence of a safe and healthy environment, sustainability should become a core value globally. Companies in the Fashion Industry need to be critical in adopting production and consumption processes that would have the less impact on the environment. Sustainability compels the Fashion sector to move towards a more efficient and less polluting production and consumption method. Companies need to be more attuned to their environment and how their activities affect it. There is a need for change in the scale and speed of existing structures to make them more environment friendly.


Major actors in the Fashion Industry need to take more critical and meaningful steps and regulatory compliance while fulfilling consumer demand for the transformational change that the environment so desperately needs. Awareness on Sustainable Fashion has brought about the introduction and initiation of Fashion Industry focused sustainability laws, campaigns and resolutions to empower the fashion industry towards taking concrete steps.


In the beginning of 2019, various United Nations Organizations activated the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, an initiative created to promote projects and policies that ensure that the fashion value process contributes to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. This initiative is committed to the lessening of the burden the industry has on the environment and reducing its negative impact. (UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion) France, a world leader in the Fashion Industry subjected companies to new Sustainability focused provisions by activating a ban on the destruction of unsold fashion items, garments and accessories giving manufacturers and retailers the obligation to reuse, donate or recycle in June 2019 (TFL). The Global Fashion Agenda initiated The 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment which aims at building a sustainable fashion system to accelerate the industry’s transition to an Eco-friendly model (GFA). All these are aimed reinventing the fashion industry by changing how clothes are designed and produced, changing the value placed on clothes by extending the lifespan of clothing items and promoting reuse and recycling.


Sustainability has become a major challenge facing the fashion industry and it has also been described in The State of Fashion 2020 by Mckinsey and Company “as the biggest opportunity; the rise of Extinction Rebellion and the demonstrated ability of Greta Thurnberg to mobilize her generation make this ever more relevant.” (McKinsey and Company) The way clothing is produced, sold, used and disposed is a collective duty and we owe it to our environment that the future of fashion is sustainable.


Thanks for reading!


Sources

Cohen, Aaron M. Fast Fashion: Tale of Two Markets. 2011. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/64928993/fast-fashion-tale-two-markets.


Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A NEW TEXTILES ECONOMY: REDESIGNING FASHION’S FUTURE. 2017. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report.pdf.


Fashion Revolution. Written evidence submitted by Fashion Revolution. 2018. http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/environmental-audit-committee/sustainability-of-the-fashion-industry/written/%2090117.html.


GFA. 2020 Commitment. 2020. https://globalfashionagenda.com/commitment/#.


Linden, Annie Radner. An Analysis of the Fast Fashion Industry. 2016. https://digitalcommons.bard.edu/senproj_f2016/30/.


McKinsey and Company. The State of Fashion 2020. 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com.


Steele, Valerie. Definition of Fashion. n.d. https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/alphabetical-index-fashion-clothing-history/definitionn-fashion.


TFL. New French Legislation Prohibits the Destruction of Unsold Goods, Including Clothing. 2020. https://www.thefashionlaw.com/new-french-legislation-prohibits-the-destruction-of-unsold-goods-including-clothing/.


The State of Fashion 2020. n.d.


UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion Website. n.d. https://unfashionalliance.org/.


United Nations. Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. n.d. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/



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A PLACE WHERE SCIENCE, RESEARCH, SUSTAINABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY COLLIDE.