Fast Fashion – From Challenge to Solution 

Global Fashion Agenda

                 "Fast fashion isn't free. Someone, somewhere is paying"     Lucy Siegle

Trailer of much-noticed movie The True Cost from 2015, that was a wake-up call for many people worldwide.

The industry is facing a challenge
The emergence of the so-called fast fashion provides consumers with cheap and fashionable products. But problems are becoming un-ignorable: The fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry and creates a row of problems in its countries of production . After the collapse of the garment factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013, this became public to a wider audience and a media discussion started. Still, even three years after this catastrophe killed more than 1000 people, little change has happened.
What is Fast Fashion?
The term Fast Fashion refers to a business model with a quick response in production and a highly rationalised supply chain management. This makes possible a short time span between a garment’s design and its sale in stores.  The goal for companies is to be able to change goods as fast as possible with new products coming in frequently to the retail stores. This leads to an impulsive buying behaviour on the consumer side, cause it is always unclear for how long a product will be available for purchasing.
A women's industry
The fashion industry is unique in the case, that it is a industry mainly targetting women - while made by women. For most women in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan,  working in garment factories is an opportunity to gain control over their lives by making their own living, despite their discontent and the inhumane conditions in a lot of these factories. Often, there is just no alternative for them.

Transforming the dirty business

The current fashion industry is a dirty business, causing waste and problems for workers and environment: polluted rivers, poisoned soil and an increased rate of illness through chemical usage.

But why do we like (fast) fashion so much?
Clothing is not only a necessity. It affects our emotions, our mood and takes part in how we communicate in the social world. Fashion, therefore, can be seen as a representation of our inner self to the outside world.
Fashion as language
With our clothing, we can present an image of ourselves and certain meanings to others. That is why we tend to constantly enhance our image and looks though clothing. Changing fashion trends enable us to constantly change and reinvent us.

Instant Language

"What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language."

Miucca Prada

That is why, in times of social media, people get more and more enthusiastic about fashion and ever faster emerging trends.

We need shifts and changes in all stages of production: Improving the working conditions, reducing pollution and waste creation are perhaps the most urgent.

Fast and Cheap

"As I said fast fashion wants to produce fast, so the garment worker has to produce faster and cheap. So the garment worker is at the only point on the supply chain were the margin is squeezed."

Livia Firth

One option: circular economy
The model of a circular economy has been highly-discussed for some years now. It acknowledges the issues the industry is facing and considers the finite nature of resources. As a rejection of the current, unsustainable linear model, it aims to stop the sheer endless creation of waste and pollution, imposing changes already in the design process. The circular model exceeds the ambition of merely selling a product, instead selling service and value.

Garment collecting and recycling is one option to make changes in the industry, here explained by H&M. They launched a worldwide garment collecting programme in 2013.

It is not only on the industry
Besides only blaming the industry, we need to change our buying behaviour.  We need to re-discover long-term relationships to the products we purchase. "It’s about a call to action to be active citizen. To talk and think about what are the consequences when you are buying something." Livia Firth

Sustainable Fashion

By making more informed and considered purchasing decisions and as far as possible preferring sustainable products, a deeper value can be attached to a product. And if a garment is more appreciated, it will probably be worn more and better cared for.

To intensify this feeling, product-related services directly by brands like repair services, customization or exchange and return offers, can help with this progress.

H&M uses recycled and innovative materials in its Conscious Exclusive collection 2017, showing that sustainable fashion can be beautiful and desirable.

Activism has many faces
"Who made my clothes?" – Fashion Revolution encourages people to ask this question during fashion revolution week, placed every year around the 24th April, that day Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013. They raise awareness to the existing problems and demand greater transparency in the supply chain. #whomademyclothes
Green Carpet Challenge
Launched at London Fashion Week in Autumn 2013, the challenge raises the profile and awareness on sustainability and ethical and social welfare in fashion by bringing it to the spotlight on the Red Carpet. Designers are asked to create   looks in a sustainable way for these special occasions. Previous participants include houses like Burberry, Donna Karan, Tom Ford and Stella McCartney worn by celebrities like Emma Watson, Cate Blanchet, Michael Fassbender or Colin Firth.
A fresh take on activism
Speaking about gender inequality and women’s rights, being an UN Ambassador, launching the HeForShe Campaign and publicly promoting sustainable and ecological fashion and beauty, Emma Watson is a new generation's role model. Emma raises her voice and the awareness for inequalities, using her status as one of the most famous actresses of our time in order to change the world.

"I hope that this subject becomes part of every conversation held all the time just buy the buy – like how we talk about the weather. The environmental, social and sustainable aspect of fashion simply becomes a part every conversation about fashion."

Vanessa Friedman

Credits: All media
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