A Fashion Lover's Perspective on Sustainability
I'm very excited to share a passion project of mine with you. This is a study that I completed for my strategic marketing degree. For anyone who is into fashion, this information is need-to-know! Check out my research on fashion sustainability and how to adjust your habits to support the health of our planet below.
How Can Sustainable Fashion Become the Industry Standard Instead of Fast Fashion?
The fashion industry has always had a significant impact on the environment, but in the past decade there has been a rapid increase in “fast fashion”. Fast fashion is low quality clothing that is made in large quantities in a short timeframe. New items are designed every few weeks to satisfy the demand of consumers who want to stay on trend. With the increase of fast fashion, the amount of waste from consumers is increasing consistently (“The price of fast fashion”, 2018). While it can be appealing for consumers to be able to purchase trendy clothing items at a low price, the prominence of this industry practice will undoubtedly continue to negatively affect our environment.
It is important to study this subject so that consumers can be educated about the impact they have and adjust their individual buying habits. Positive change can spark when individuals make decisions for the benefit of others and for the environment. Personal choices are the biggest factor at play in fashion sustainability, and the best way for sustainable fashion companies to advocate for change is to educate the consumer. They can also invest in greener production. Additionally, governments play an important role in the education of consumers and the laws in place regarding the regulation sustainable production (“The price of fast fashion”, 2018). If we do not adjust the level of worldwide emissions, we may begin to see vast climate and economic disaster like we never have before (Mittnik, Semmler, & Haider, 2020).
An alternative trend towards fast fashion is sustainable fashion (Woodside & Fine, 2019). Consumers are purchasing sixty percent more than they were in the year 2000, and clothing is not worn for long before it is thrown out. Researchers believe that consumption will triple by the year 2050 as compared to 2000. The production of textiles produces one-billion two-hundred-million tons of polluting CO2 each year (“The price of fast fashion”, 2018). After the industry for petroleum, the fashion industry is second in causing worldwide pollution (Woodside & Fine, 2019). Researchers have found that five percent of global emissions come from production in the fashion industry alone. One way that emissions could decrease is through ending the production of synthetic materials entirely. This is because they require fossil fuels in their production. Amazingly, sixty percent of all clothing is disposed of through incineration or into landfills within one year of its production. This has a massive negative impact on the environment. Another way that the industry can be eco-friendly is to recycle used plastics into fabric. Recycling requires less energy than the production of original items. Finally, there has been a new initiative in recent years towards “slow fashion”, where consumers purchase higher quality, timeless items less often than they would trendy, fast fashion items. Additional ways that the field can move towards sustainability in fashion are: (a) the use of a circular economy, where materials and products are utilized for as long as possible; (b) a general effort towards lowering the negative impact on the environment from production; (c) clothing rental companies; (d) an increase in the durability of clothing; (e) less focus on purchasing trendy items, and more focus towards the purchase of timeless items; and finally (f) a general shift in consumer behavior through education (“The price of fast fashion”, 2018).
It is important to note that the green fashion industry, also known as the “eco fashion” industry, (Woodside & Fine, 2019) is facing challenges in its development. These include a highly competitive atmosphere in eco-product development, generally low prices in retail for fast fashion merchandise, and high rates of return for consumers (Guo et al., 2020). Companies must find the balance between making money and taking care of the environment. One way they do so is through creating collaborative relationships with their competitors to lower the cost of their investment in product greenness. In turn, the fast fashion segment can join these initiatives and help improve the green product development of the industry (Guo et al., 2020). If companies choose to implement these green practices, they will not only positively impact the environment in the immediate, but they will also be setting themselves up for success in the future. Climate disaster would have a vast negative impact on the economy, and largely affect today’s companies in the future (Mittnik, et al., 2020).
Conclusions and Recommendations
While many consumers are, at the very least, slightly educated on what sustainability is, it is very clear that they do not understand the weight of how their personal choices affect the environment. For those who completed the study, a lot of them chose the option that they we “unsure” as to whether or not sustainable fashion actually helps our planet thrive at all, while one person even stated that it was “not likely”. The researchers did find that many of the respondents reacted positively to the question of whether they would be willing to spend more on a sustainably made clothing item versus the same item, made unsustainably, and sold at a lower price point. Additionally, many of the respondents were willing to shop secondhand, consignment, or vintage, and if the respondents answered accurately, this would allow the U.S. to lean more towards a circular economy with fashion purchasing. Almost all the respondents stated that they choose to get rid of unwanted clothing items through sustainable means such as donation to charity, giving the item to a friend, or via consignment. Finally, most of the respondents stated that they would be willing to purchase less brand-new clothing items when given the information that the average adult American purchases one new item of clothing every five days. Much of the results from the study showed promise that the fashion industry can in fact be taken over by sustainable companies, but only when the American public is educated enough on the weight of their personal buying choices.
American adults need sustainable fashion to be easily accessible for them to want to utilize it. With anything that consumers may be interested in purchasing, sustainable fashion needs to be marketed well, competitively priced, and generally aesthetically appealing. Fashion organizations that want to utilize sustainable practices and create sustainable items need to make it easily accessible to the public by doing the following: (a) keeping prices as low as possible when possible, if not totally comparable to the price of fast fashion items that have the same style and feel; (b) ensuring that sustainable clothing items are available for purchase in popular brick-and-mortar stores and in online stores; and (c) offering secondhand options or programs when applicable. Government entities and fashion organizations with a goal to provide sustainable products should educate the public on how the fashion industry negatively impacts the environment through straightforward, easy to understand campaigns.
Guo, S., Choi, T. M., & Shen, B. (2020). Green product development under competition: A study
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Hair, J. F., Ortinau, D. J., & Harrison, D. E. (2021). Essentials of Marketing Research (5th ed.).
McGraw Hill Education.
Mittnik, S., Semmler, W., & Haider, A. (2020). Climate disaster risks—Empirics and a multi-
phase dynamic model. Econometrics, vol. 8(3), 1-27. DOI: 10.3390/econometrics8030033
The price of fast fashion. (2018). Nature Climate Change, vol. 8(1), 1. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-017-
Woodside, A. G., & Fine, M. B. (2019). Sustainable fashion themes in luxury brand storytelling:
The sustainability fashion research grid. Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, vol. 10(2), 111-28.
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