Fast Fashion, Fashion Resale And The Climate Crisis
- November 20, 2020
The current fashion industry produces 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions*. While people are buying considerably more garments than they used to, they are keeping their clothes half as long* As clothing quality deteriorates, discarded items are often unsuitable for the resale market and end up in landfills (or worse).
That’s the curse of “fast fashion” retailers like Forever 21, Boohoo and Misguided* These companies excel at design, marketing and supply chain management but they offer fashion so cheap (and cheaply made) that it becomes disposable. The concept of classic, long lasting, high quality wearable’s is the antithesis of too many manufacturers and retailers.
Much of what is sold in the fast fashion market is made of cut-rate petroleum-based synthetic fabrics such as Polyester, Acrylic, Nylon, Spandex and Acetate – all made from non-renewable fossil fuels. If clogging up landfills and sullying our lakes, rivers, oceans and forests weren’t bad enough, the production of synthetic fabrics is more environmentally degrading than natural fiber fabrics.
And as long as we’re piling on … many manufacturers of fast fashion produce in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan where workers’ safety and rights are often sacrificed for the sake of efficiency. So much for human rights and social justice.
But there’s some good news.
The online resale market is booming. “Bargain hunting, environmental concerns and the sharing economy have erased the stigma of used goods at the same time technology has made thrift shopping more accessible, reliable and cool. Even Kim Kardashian West wears vintage designer duds.”* The online resale market is expected to grow at a rate of 39% per year from 2019 to 2024 to $36 billion, that’s in addition to the “traditional” thrift and donation market of $28 billion which is expected to grow at 6% per year.*
According to the New York Times, “there is little doubt that buying habits will change after the pandemic, becoming more deliberate, out of both economic necessity and a shift in values. The kind of instant gratification represented by so much of fast fashion increasingly seems simply wasteful. Understanding what you have that has lasted (and why it has lasted) will help consumers make better decisions later.”*
On this theme, at Climate Action Now, we are embracing a concept we call Shop(less)™.
What’s the best thing you can do for the environment? That’s easy. Buy nothing at all. But let’s be realistic. We need some things. For products like soap and shampoo, we can buy in bulk. For some other products you can rent or borrow or buy vintage, used, recycled, up cycled or reclaimed products. When you use what already exists, you keep those materials out of the landfill (or ocean, etc.) and use no or less carbon-producing energy.
The clothing company Patagonia is one of the most respected in the world. Saving the planet has been a keystone to their business plan from the beginning. They live it. And breath it.
At Climate Action Now, we will be a commerce hub for businesses like Patagonia’s Worn Wear division where up cycling is a strategy. Keeping things out of a landfill is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the wallet, too.
Learn more about Worn Wear in this video by Patagonia.
Will the resale trend continue? We think so. It’s a treasure hunt and consumers embrace the fun of the hunt and the satisfaction of the discoveries. The fact that the upcycling process creates unique, one-of-kind products is attractive to many. And as celebrities continue to jump on the second-hand bandwagon the validation (and snob appeal) of the practice will grow.
The environmental benefits of the resale market are easy to understand. Younger people get it. There’s little stigma. Providing a second life for things is a no-brainer.
And what’s wrong with saving money? And then there are the economic drivers … the opportunity to bargain and to profit from the resale of your own merchandise. It all works.
As online resale markets grow so will the social acceptance and social media amplification that upcyling, recycling, reclaiming, reusing is all good. It will drive new norms, new cultural standards and new values. Second hand commerce can become a first world solution to our growing climate crisis. Get on board. And Shop(less).
Let us know what your thoughts and share creative ways you are becoming more aware about our fashion industry evolving to help our environment.