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Sustainability in Fast Fashion

Rapid production of clothing pieces with current demands has caused major social and environmental destruction that requires increased effort to support sustainable manufacturing for fashion pieces. While enhancing sustainability is essential, it contradicts the methods of fast fashion. This further makes one question whether is it possible to be sustainable within fast fashion. From 2000 to 2014, production of the fashion pieces doubled and individual consumption increased by 60% (Reny, Speelman & Swartz, 2016). People's tendency to swiftly change their clothes has worsened the situation. The average time the clothing is being used has decreased by 36% overall from 2000 to 2015 (Gueye, 2021) which has contributed to the rise in the purchase. Furthermore, due to the vast amount of distributors and producers, management of ethical production and price range has become more complicated. As fashion evolves fast, the increasingly rapid pace of production has caused workers to be overworked and underpaid.

According to UN Alliance for climate change, 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused only by fast fashion industries (United Nations, 2018). While fast fashion greatly impacts the environment, people still tend to choose these brands over alternatives as it offers up-to-date clothing pieces for much cheaper prices. Rather than choosing sustainable brands, convenient pricing overshadows the issues that the brands carry. The lack of transparency about the disruption that the fashion industry creates also seems to have no effect.

Figure 1: A graph examining clothing sales and usage (World Bank, World development indicators, 2017)

Sustainability within Fashion

It is essential to raise awareness and meet the needs of the present rather than merely generating solutions for the far future. Execution of such plan is possible by the consideration of every aspect that sustainability involves. To better understand what sustainability in the fashion industry looks like, it is necessary to be aware of how sustainability works and is being measured. John Elkington in Bamford (2020) explains the Triple Bottom Line approach (TBL) that covers three main pillars of sustainability, namely society, economy, and environment. In the sustainability principle, it is necessary to protect the environment while developing socially and economically (Morelli, 2011). Care for the environment requires fashion manufacturing factories to pollute less, use nature-friendly materials, and recycle clothing pieces regularly. In the social aspect, fashion industries need to treat their workers fairly by imposing economic regulation that supports fair wages and workloads. This economic regulation also helps to reduce pollution from the budget existence for sustainable production.

Figure 2: A diagram explaining TBL (Gelen Ö., 2022)

Furthermore, social constructionists have been conducting research to understand the current situation and the paradox the fashion industry has created. In a short questionnaire, researchers asked consumers about sustainability in fashion; while some merely focused on the environmental aspects, some mentioned socially destructive sides also (Rønholt, Overgaard, 2020). As the answers were vague, people were asked to elaborate on their answers by describing what sustainability is for them in purchasing. The most significant answer concerns the production material that considers its social and environmental aspects. However, the materials' qualities change according to how trustworthy the adver