Why The Fast Fashion Crisis Is Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better

by: Courtney Sanders | 2 years ago | News

Image: Zara, which produces around 450 million garments per year. Image source.

The problems in the fast fashion industry supply chain are many and complex, but they’re all underpinned by the fact that too much cheap, poor quality clothing is being produced, too much cheap, poor quality clothing is being bought, and too much cheap, poor quality clothing is being thrown away. While many consumers, labels, and organisations are currently turning away from fast fashion, or trying to find solutions to the environmental and human rights crises in the fast fashion supply chain, these crises look set to get worse before they get better for a very important reason: the increase in spending by people in developing countries on fast fashion items.

Quartz points to new research by McKinsey & Co., which analysed the effect emerging markets could have on fast fashion consumption and the issues associated with it. The research indicates “without improvements in how clothing is made, these issues grow proportionally as more clothes are produced” and that “in five large developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Russia – apparel sales grew eight times faster than in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States”.

Those statistics are pretty crazy considering we already buy 400% more clothing than we did 20 years ago, we bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than we did in 2000 and we keep it for half as long, clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014, the average number of collections produced by European fashion companies increased from 2 to 5 between 2000 and 2011 (while Zara, for example, releases new products twice per week), and, unlike most other consumer products, the cost of clothing is decreasing.

The report indicates that if these emerging markets consume just 80% of the amount of clothing the developed world does – which seems likely given the above - and the developed world continues to consume at the same levels – which also seems likely – the environmental impact with be devastating:

Chart source.

The report also points out that while fast fashion companies, like H&M and Zara, do have sustainability plans, they are at odds with the simple fact that they produce hundreds-of-millions of poor-quality, inexpensive garments every year.

A lot of the power to change the fashion industry lies with consumers, via our purchasing decisions, so, in the wise words of Dame Vivienne Westwood: “buy less, choose well, make it last”.

Via Quartz

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