In recent years, there has been a huge increase in retailers adapting greener and more sustainable materials and initiatives in their supply chain and in stores. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, this shift towards an environmentally conscious approach to purchasing has intensified.
Retailers who are currently leveraging the environmental movement are already ahead of the curve. For example, Marks and Spencer recently found that 58% of customers agreed that sustainability was a key consideration when buying jeans. Furthermore, According to a 2020 GlobalData report, 37.3% of UK consumers agreed that retailers that place greater emphasis on sustainability were ‘more appealing’.
An increasing number of retailers are launching sustainable initiatives. Meanwhile, fast fashion, which has nothing to do with eco-friendliness, has risen in popularity possibly at the same rate as the rise in demand for sustainability.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a fast-paced business model that drives people to buy more clothes motivated by low prices and multiple micro-seasons per year. According to a study conducted by American Apparel and Footwear Associations in the United States, an average consumer purchases approximately eight pairs of shoes and 68 items of clothing each year, each giving a maximum shelf life of three months. Americans throw away an average of 30 kilos of clothes a year – and we are not talking about donations to charities, but clothes that go directly to the landfill.
Fast fashion brands not only change their products frequently, but also carry out a policy of relocation, manufacturing their products in developing third world countries to maximize profits and even sacrificing security conditions in which they carry out their activities.
Chemicals and especially dyes used in the textile industry cause environmental and health problems that are hard to ignore. The highly toxic chemicals being used and the large amount of untreated wastewater directly cause water pollution. Moreover, these chemicals evaporate into the air we breathe or are absorbed by our skin, which causes allergic reactions.
It is estimated that the fast fashion industry will increase 50% by the year 2030, however the growing demand for garments already has a strong impact on the environment.
The impact of fast fashion
- About 2700 liters of water is used to make just one cotton t-shirt, which is equivalent to a person’s 900 days of water consumption.
- The fast fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global emissions and the production of 20% of wastewater worldwide.
- When washing synthetic clothes, micro particles are released; Thus, 30% of the plastic waste in the ocean is textile microfibers.
- On a world scale, cotton planting occupies only 2.4% of cultivated land but consumes 6% of pesticides and 16% of insecticides; currently less than 1% is organic cotton.
- In 2015 the fast fashion industry produced 92 million tons of waste.
The effects of fast fashion are unfortunately not limited to the production phase. Consumers are encouraged to buy more and more often with constantly changing trends and new products being introduced. The “throw away culture” that has emerged as a result creates tons of textile waste every year. While 15 years ago the number of collections released per brand was 2 or at most 4 per year, leading fast-fashion brands such as Zara, Primark, Topshop and H&M can now introduce up to 30 collections per year.
Where does social media stand?
A study reported in The Standard highlights the impact of social networks on the throw away culture. In the survey conducted with the participation of 2,000 consumers, it was revealed that 10% of the clothes that were photographed three times and uploaded to social networks were thrown away.
It’s hard to break the current consumer cycle at a time when people feel underlying pressure to follow the latest trends and wear ‘what’s in’ according to their favorite influencers. But there is also a new group of influencers who want to live more eco-friendly and socially aware, and they are starting to pave the way for change.
The Rise of ‘Sinnfluencers’
Sinnfluencer is a German term derived from the words ‘sinn’ – meaning ‘purpose’ and ‘influencer’. As role models, Sinnfluencers try to motivate their followers to shape a better future. They are trying to raise a voice for the ongoing problems of the society by sharing about issues such as sustainability, environment and pollution.
Like regular influencers, Sinnfluencers promote the products they use in their daily lives – but with attention to more sustainable options like slow fashion brands or eco-friendly care products. They avoid buying products they don’t need or promoting them just to make money. Many point out how much unnecessary packaging is used in promotional packages sent for advertising. They live vegan, share tips to avoid all kinds of waste, and try to go zero waste.
What can we do to reduce our consumption of fast fashion?
If you want to start cutting back on your fast-fashion intake, you can start by upcycling the clothes you already have in your wardrobe, giving pieces that look worn a second chance, and buying second-hand clothes. And if you are dying to buy something new, you can check the quality of the garment before purchasing it, to ensure that you will not end up discarding it prematurely. In addition, you can inquire about the brands you consume, to find out about how they manufacture their garments and treat their employees.
The industry can’t change overnight, and neither can we, but the more we transform our mindset regarding our own habits, the faster the change will occur.
Let’s make the fast fashion out and sustainable fashion in! Before you buy something next time, be sure to ask yourself, “Do I really need what I’m buying or am I just swayed by social media?