What is sustainable fast-fashion?

Updated: Jun 5

Sustainability within consumer production is a fairly new discipline within the environmental field of business. It combines economics to business, society and the environment. So when I see established fast-fashion brands using trending keywords like 'sustainable', 'ethical' and 'green' I wonder how can fast-fashion be sustainable?

We spend 48.1 billion in the UK every year on fashion with 11.6 billion of that being digital online sales. This is the fashion market so what is fast-fashion?

Fast-fashion is unlawfully copied fashion and textile designs taken from the catwalk, which is not ethical, honest or green and therefore not economically business-friendly or sustainable. How can any fast-fashion brands claim to be 'sustainable' when this immoral design process is copied, made and when it is no longer on-trend disposed of?

Textile designers take three months to produce unique pieces of textile design, yet in a couple of seconds video clips and images are uploaded on social media and the textile design is sent offshore to be copied digitally on lesser quality fabric. This copycat process is fast-fashion and it happens within days. You may not have thought about it before but on the hush-please-shush companies are being sued left, right and centre, paying out compensation fees to fashion designers and textiles designers all of the time.

Primark is one of the worse fast-fashion offenders. However, Primark makes so much money that by the time they are sued by a designer or fashion brand the copied garment has already been sold hook, line and sinker. Primark is agreeably cheap, but ethical, green and sustainable it is not.

Sustainable fashion

Textile manufacturing has not changed since the modern-day environmental movement in the early '60s. As I have mentioned in a blog from last year "Is sustainable fashion a mitigated flop?" there are six carbon-intensive stages involved in making fabric.

For a fast-fashion brand or any fashion brand to refer to its self as 'sustainable,' the brand is required to address this six-stage textile process by aiming to reduce the amount of water used, using colder water, avoiding plastic components, opting for a lesser toxic fabric or organic cotton, albeit this will only happen at the brand or client request.

Some fast-fashion brands are following the sustainable fashion movement. However, sustainable fashion does not mean strategically dumping last seasons unwanted collection in Ghana, where they do not want any more of our wear-it-once-throw-it-away-fast-fashion. Ghana businessmen and women cannot sell defected clothes and they do not want any more fast-fashion waste polluting their land. Sending unwanted clothes via aeroplane or ship is not sustainable or green. This out-of-sight-out-of-mind solution does not work and it is not a sustainable or ethical solution.

The ongoing climate crisis scientifically high-lights the reasons why human-made fast-fashion greenhouse gases are harmful to the environment and why we need to address consumerism globally. Unethical consumerism is causing an environmental catastrophe in Ghana, yet we continue to shop in this way.

The future of clothes

For ecosystems and communities to prosperous, the entire finance system should ideally be addressed. Fast-fashion brands should be regulated and encouraged to move away from harmful bedrock textile methods from the '60s. Socially conscious consumers want to be able to buy affordable innovative recycled products from an and eco-friendly production line without harmful finishing technics.

Some fast-fashion brands, like H&M, have started to listen by offering consumers a discount for returning unwanted clothes to the store. This is great, providing what happens to the returned clothes is a sustainable solution. Levi Strauss who we are all familiar have improved the denim jeans production line by using 96% less water in the manufacturing process. This is exactly what socially conscious consumers have been hoping for because most people own a pair of Levi becausethey are quality and last a very long time.

Manufacturing denim, mainly denim jeans will only improve if established brands who sell jeans and make denim invest in innovative laser technology such as Jeanologia who is the world leader in sustainable and efficent finishing technologies for textile, coding and packaging.

I work in fashion, textiles and Interior Design so I want to believe fast-fashion brands are doing what they can to become more sustainable, because people buy fast-fashion, but at the moment fast-fashion is not truly sustainable nor can fast-fashion brands claim to be sustainable unless like Stella McCartney, Nudie, Unmade and Levi (just to name a couple of our favorites) they are investing in the future of fashion.

When brands disregard unwanted, defected clothes by shipping them out to Ghana, literally to the other side of the world for other business people in Ghana to deal with, this is not a sustainable strategy, nor is it innovative or environmentally-friendly. Investing in sustainable collaborations with small brands that recycle waste material is a creditable sustainable business strategy.

If your fashion brand produces defected waste material please contact me here.

Outside A Circus

Outside a Circus is an eccentric hat shop inspired by plants and nature, Shopping tours in Barcelona and a green fashion, shopping and interiors blog.


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