Sustainability is now the prevailing paradigm by which industries must carry out business operations in light of the growing support for the green movement. Even the fashion industry must rise to the occasion despite the perceived need to come out with a fresh set of product lines for every season. Yet fast fashion and sustainable practices are deemed hard to reconcile, because the problem stems from the difference in the markets that demand the products.
Eco-Friendly Garment Market vs. High Street Fast Fashion Market
Environment-conscious consumers are willing to pay more for durable garments produced by companies that focus on creating product lines from natural, eco-friendly raw materials. When and where organic materials are not suitable, garment manufacturers supporting the sustainability advocacy, use renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create with less if not zero wastes, practice fair treatment of workers, maintain safe production facilities and commit to social development programs by partnering with socio-civic organizations. Naturally, all these equate to additional production and operational costs that result to higher price tags.
The fast fashion market on the other hand, cater to consumers who demand trendy clothing resembling the latest designs copied from catwalks or worn by celebrities, but offered at cheaper prices. Here, customers prefer to patronize stores that come out with cheap copies of the latest in off the runway fashion, at breakneck speed.
Based on a State of Fashion Report by McKinsey Company which delves into analyzing data in the Business of Fashion, one in every three young women thinks that a piece of clothing that has been worn once or twice is already old. This finding suggests that addressing sustainability issues in the fast fashion market is not just a matter of adhering to environment-friendly practices. There is the systemic purchasing behavior in the fast fashion market that is posing as huge stumbling block that prevents the sector from reducing various types of pollution in large volumes.
What the Fast Fashion Sector Learned from the Construction Industry
Although the fashion and construction industry are poles apart in their line of business, both industries count among the largest consumers of natural resources and producers of wastes.
The difference however, is that the construction industry has to build with longevity in mind, Structures must be built using materials that generally have a lifespan of more than 60 years. That way, and depending on the structure, constructed buildings can meet the minimum lifetime guarantee required by insurance companies.
This is why discarded building materials that are still in good condition and sold as scrap by junk yeards still find use as affordable, recyclable construction materials. Even concrete rubbles find use as construction filling materials without compromising the foundations of a building or home.
The recycling and/ or repurposing of construction materials somehow reduces the demand on natural resources and at the same time reduces the amount of construction wastes polluting the environment. Moreover, construction companies are also required to install protective ground coverings to prevent soil contamination, compaction and salination, the most common problems that lead to land degradation.
While the fast fashion industry has to cater to the throw away and short use behavior of high street consumers. using raw materials with greater durability can help mitigate the impact of wastes and demand for natural resources. In doing so, fast fashion companies can still afford to offer products at lower prices by adhering to the construction industry’s closed-loop or circular economy. A related system collects discarded but relatively new clothing for future use as recyclable materials.
Actually, leading brands of high street, fast fashion garments Levi’s and H&M are now working closely with a I:CO in tackling textile wastes. The latter is a company is into creating a closed-loop economy specifically for the fashion industry by devising ways of making old fashion items become new instead of turning into discards or trash.