The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative industries today. Also, without a doubt has lots of concerns. The fashion industry for a long time has been perceived as a major contributor to rising sea levels, forest fires, exploitation of labor, underpaid wages, etc. Unfortunately, this is true because of the process involved in the making of clothes from their raw materials. For instance, it takes about 4,000 liters of water to make a pair of jeans. The majority of the water used is not recycled, which means that the fashion industry is responsible for water wastage at a high level. 

As lucrative as the fashion industry is, it is also responsible for above 10% of carbon emissions per year. This is more than what all international flights and maritime shipping produce combined. Although the fashion industry contributes a quota to the GDP it is one of the largest polluters in the world. 

What is Fast Fashion? 

Fast fashion can be defined as the making of cheap and trendy clothing that is made at a high speed to meet customer demand. There is a high demand in the fashion industry to produce to meet customer demands. Technically, this has led to the birth of fast fashion. Clothes do not necessarily go through the hard process; textile industries have deployed a way of making cheap clothes. Many people do not have to wear a single cloth two times; once they wear it, they dispose of it. 

Fast fashion as popularly observed still has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. The swift change in taste and trendy fashion wear with intense demand has made it almost impossible for fast fashion to be sustainable. Fashion industry observers have lamented the lack of respect for the environment with the unethical manufacturing process they follow. Despite major concerns from observers, most fast fashion industries have continued to grow. 

While fast fashion makes shopping for clothes more affordable and easier, it comes at a price. The mass production of affordable clothes compels people to throw away clothes instead of recycling them properly. The fashion industry is often called “Landfill fashion” due to the way people dispose of clothes instead of recycling them. However, when synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester (made from plastic) are washed, they produce tiny plastic fibers which escape to the environment. And because plastics are not biodegraded, they pollute the ground or the ocean they fall into. 

Demand for sustainable fashion 

Fast fashion is high turnaround, low-cost, trendy clothing and materials created to maximize profit and meet demand. The fashion industry, without any consideration for the environment, makes these products. There is much at stake with fast fashion – rigorous use of human labor, waste production, and environmental pollution. It has been a constant practice for years because they are trying to meet demands. Many people have started asking questions and demanding more ethical products. 

Big brands make lots of money selling products to customers. Retailers and drop shippers are not exempted from this profit chain. The fashion industry is estimated to be more than 2.4 trillion dollars and employs approximately 86 million people worldwide. Reports also established that between the years 1975 to 2018, global textile production per capita increased from 5.9 kg to 13 kg per year. In addition, global consumption has risen to 62 million tons of apparel per year and is expected to rise to 102 million per apparel by 2030. The demand and consumption have triggered the fashion companies to produce almost double the amount produced in the last decade. 

Factors to consider for a sustainable fashion industry 

Above all, planning is vital to the success of anything. There should be proper planning in place for both the government regulatory bodies and the fashion companies. Before implementing anything, do extensive research on the industry and plan to fill the loopholes. 

Fast fashion industry

Environmental Considerations 

The fashion industry along with aluminum are the highest emitters of greenhouse gas. It has been estimated to have about 8-10% of annual global carbon emissions. The fashion industry is also the second largest consumer of water with an estimate of 79 trillion liters per year. 

-          Build factories far from resident areas 

-          Use nontoxic dyes and chemicals 

-          Manufacturing facilities must be up to environmental and social standards. 

-          Install systems to prevent microfibers from infiltrating waterways 

Social Considerations 

The fashion industry also impacts society and considerations must be taken. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labour found evidence of child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, China, Vietnam, etc. Approximately 80% of apparel is made by women between the ages of 18-24 years in low-income countries per a report. 

-          Pay workers reasonable wages 

-          Incorporate SDGs into the company’s mission 

-          Adhere to local regulations 

-          Avoid the use of underage children 

Resources Considerations 

-          Prioritize the creation of quality and lasting materials 

-          Avoid the use of fabrics that are made from fossils 

-          Use eco-friendly tools 

-          Reuse and recycle materials 

Five ways the fashion industry can be sustainable 

1.       Invest in materials and clothing that will last 

It’s been said that the first and the most obvious change starts with the consumers. The fashion industry is built and driven by the demands and needs of the consumers. Consumer demands change with time, trends and taste. For instance, the production of thick clothes is essential during winter periods and also rainy seasons. The fashion industry is expected to produce thick and at the same time fashionable clothes. 

Also, monthly trends come and go at a fast pace that no customer would want to spend big on the quality. The answer to this is creating your style. Trends will come and go and it is only reasonable to get things that fit you. You can only shop at your own pace when you create your style. When there is a high demand for a fashion product, fashion companies fasten their pace to meet up with demands. 

By creating your style, you in turn make conscious purchases and reduce expenses. Fashion companies are not in a hurry to meet demands when we buy less and buy quality. Invest in fashion materials that will last for a period; it pays to invest so that we will all enjoy the advantages. 

2.       Produce Less 

Fashion companies produce too much than can be sold at times. It looks like an easy problem to fix. Although big fashion brands are built on profits especially when big items are sold. Many of these big fashion brands have stores across big cities in the world. The change should start from the top to enable sustainability. Fashion brands must cut down their production of collections so that the consumers will not be intimidated by the production of new brands. 

Sadly, there can’t be regulation of trendy fashions. Trendy fashions come and go, but they keep consumers on their toes to keep buying. Another solution is to move production closer to people to save the cost of shipping and quality production. 

3.       Recycle, Reuse materials and fabrics 

This also applies to fashion companies. Stop using virgin raw materials at all times. There are lots of creative minds in the fashion world. With every new collection, a designer can offer a new look, desired appearance, dream, and a fresh personality. Fashion like other art can be inspired and dreamt pictures can become real. 

However, with time fashion trends come back and can also be inspired by an initial fashion trend. We need to reduce the extraction of clothing raw materials to push sustainability. Gradually we are beginning to lose some raw materials due to rigorous use and extraction. We need to cut down extraction, reuse, and recycle the materials that we have. 

Apart from the recycling, another thing to do is repurposing old stocks. Repurposing old stocks mean using old materials to serve a new purpose. Just like old motor tires are now used to make sitting chairs, tables, and kitchen hangers, old clothing materials can be repurposed too. Although, it requires innovative design skills, technical knowledge, and an idea of what to do. 

4.       Second-hand Shopping 

Second-hand shopping helps to sustain the fashion industry. According to a report, the second-hand clothing industry is valued at $50 billion and is projected to hit $70 billion at the end of this decade. Consumers are chasing second-hand clothing materials like never before. With second-hand shopping, you can get standout clothing materials for cheap. Smart buyers are making the fashion industry more sustainable by buying used materials. 

5.       Green and Eco-friendly Fashion 

The fashion industry as said above is one of the most polluting industries across the globe. Raw materials are gotten from plants and animals; the industry is affecting all. That is why it has become important to produce green and eco-friendly materials. Sustainability has its focus on the future, not what will only satisfy our needs for the present moment alone. Fashion companies and consumers should embrace green and eco-friendly fashion. Fashion products made from renewable resources are known as green. Consumers will love to wear things that are not harmful to themselves or the environment. Non-toxic clothing materials are free of chemicals; hence, they improve the health of the consumers and the environment at large. 

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Frequently Asked Questions 

1.       Is the fashion industry very powerful? Yes, it is one of the most lucrative industries we have. It contributes a quota to the world’s GDP. Fashion will continue to evolve, which future strengthens the point that it has a future. 

2.       Do we have sustainable fashion brands? Yes, we have examples of some sustainable fashion brands. They include Patagonia, LLBean, Petite Lucette, United By Blue, etc. 

3.       What can a fashion brand do to be more sustainable? There are lots of things a fashion brand can do to help sustainability and they include Transparency, buying sustainable textiles, products nearest to your consumers, and refraining from fast fashion. 

Finally, a sustainable fashion industry is the only option for a healthy and adequate future. Customers, as well as fashion companies, must show that they care. Customers should buy responsibly, buy second-hand clothing, buy quality brands, reuse and repurpose materials, etc. The fashion industry must also consider all the necessary considerations. For a future void of danger and unnecessary competition, we must incorporate sustainable fashion into our daily lives. 

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