For years, luxury and designer brands have been considered the embodiment of style and culture, setting trends and shifting consumer interest each season.
While these brands have remained at the top tier of the fashion industry, generational interest in luxury items and goods has diminished since the start of the 21st century. Today, more and more consumers are rather looking to feed their novelty for fashion with seasoned garments that are affordable, cheap, and on-trend.
The billion-dollar fast fashion industry has grown exponentially during the last two decades, and it's helped brands such as Zara, H&M, Gap, Forever 21, Target, and Primark, among others, take advantage of the globalization of fast fashion.
The Dirty Reality of Fast Fashion
While fast fashion has been able to offer a solution to the standard supply and demand chain, it's far surpassed consumer demand, with thousands of excess garments being dumped in landfills across the world each year. In the United States alone, more than 11.3 million tons of textile waste is generated each year, around 2,150 pieces each second, according to a Bloomberg news report.
Waste caused by fast fashion throughout production to consumers contributed around 10% of total global carbon emissions, the second-highest after fossil fuel production. But with an industry estimated to be worth more than $99.23 billion in 2022, how can companies make a difference to mitigate their impact on the environment and those working in stringent conditions to fuel an industry overrun by mass consumerism.
Embracing Sustainable Resale and Refashion Practices, Finally
For decades fashion brands and high-end labels have been trading on the premise that consumer habits will remain the same throughout the years. However, as older generations started stepping aside, making way for younger consumers and buyers to take their place, the traditional consumer behavior that was once thought to outlive the industry drastically started changing.
A report by Depop found that roughly 60% of Gen Z consumers, those aged between 18 and 23 years, prioritize reducing their carbon footprint, while more than 90% of polled consumers are looking to make drastic changes to become more environmentally conscious.
With the rise of resale and reusability hitting the market, startup entrepreneurs are now finding new innovative ways to refurbish luxury goods and high-end name brands to help contribute towards eco-conscious efforts and create a profitable side-hustle.
Where Is This Change Coming From?
The effort to drive change in the fashion industry might not stem from large-scale fashion brands and big-box name stores. We could perhaps see innovation that embraces sustainable resale and refashion practices come from smaller house brands and startup businesses.
To see such a change, one company, CODOGIRL, founded by duo Yulia and Andrey Omelich, is combining their expertise to offer consumers access to previously owned luxury garments. In April 2021, the eCommerce platform was recognized by the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC).
With these types of initiatives, the company can now offer consumers a consortium of luxury goods that would've otherwise ended up in landfills. “To make more sense of the ongoing issue, we resale and refashion garments as a meaningful alternative to fast fashion,” says Andrey Omelich, co-founder of CODOGIRL.
“We're not just looking to make a difference in the life cycle of clothing itself, but more so re-instill life in what would otherwise have ended up in landfills.”
While high-end brand names and fast fashion labels are creating a trail of textile waste, it's been left to smaller startups and businesses to look for solutions that could help clean up the industry.
It's David vs. Goliath
Take, for example, Shein, a Chinese eCommerce platform that has now become one of the most popular online clothing websites in the United States among men and women. A Chinese report found that the company made nearly $10 billion the same year. The website offers consumers thousands of options, with some claiming that more than 259,264 products are available in the “Women Clothing” category in one day.
Despite its growing popularity, some conscious shoppers and journalists have raised concerns over the ever-increasing impact companies such as Shein have on the environment. But it's not just them that largely contributes to the growing carbon footprint. The overall fast fashion industry lacks transparency.
Popular UK-based eCommerce site, Boohoo.com has also been the face of controversy for some time, lacking to provide clear evidence over whether its practices are as carbon-efficient as they may claim. A Vice investigation found that the popular site uploads roughly 700 or more items on their store every week.
This shows not only how powerful these companies have become but also the widespread impact they're directly having on the environment. Business Insider findings revealed that these companies are now producing more carbon than all international flights and maritime shipping combined as of 2019.
So How Do You Win Over Consumers?
It's not a matter of how you can win over consumers but rather a case of presenting them with an environmentally sustainable solution that already exists.
“Consumers will need to restructure their innate perception of what it means if something is ‘Brand New.' How much time, natural resources, and cheap labor went into the clothing that you're wearing to make you feel ‘Brand New'?” Andrey tells us.
Restyling and reselling existing items in the long and short term makes a lot more sense than producing new garments to take their place.
Instead of having to purchase cheap or affordable garments from fast fashion outlets, consumers now have the opportunity to buy luxury clothing items that are high in quality and value. Moreover, these garments have already undergone a vigorous production process to ensure their durability, and in the long run, these garments are bound to outlive any fast-fashion wardrobe.
Instead of luxury brands solely focussing on high-end consumers, a solution-based approach that would encapsulate a broader audience of buyers is needed who can pay a lower retail price for an original luxury item.
This means that younger buyers interested in luxury garments and those purely looking to make a difference by reducing their carbon footprint can now have easier access to these items without spending a large amount of money on new clothes.
Why Look Towards Luxury Instead of Affordability
It's perhaps the age-old equation a lot of consumers have ignored, and it's especially prevalent in the world of fast fashion. Spending a bit more on a certain accessory, handbag or garment does come with a price, but it also comes with a certain level of quality unmatched by rivaling fast fashion brands.
There's a lot on the table to consider, and for consumers, it's a case of buying cheap or buying fake. In 2020, the fashion industry lost more than $50 billion due to the sale of counterfeit garments.
The rise of social media and influencers has also largely contributed to the explosion of the counterfeit industry, with some reports claiming around 20% of garments advertised on social media as being fake.
Buying cheap might be another great option instead of supporting an illicit market flooded with counterfeit luxury brands and high-end fashion labels. But for those who are willing to buy cheap, the price tag with which it comes has a more significant impact on environmental sustainability.
To create a middle ground, it's possible to refashion and restyle luxury items, whether it's Gucci, Louis Vuitton, or Hermès, from coats to bags and belts – designer clothing, fabricated with better materials and more pristine precision could endure a longer wear cycle than cheaper name brands.
Designer clothing, whether appraised for its pristine or level of quality, is, in essence, a more authentic purchase than something which is bound to end up in a landfill.
Generally speaking, the first thing many people nowadays are looking for is seeing how clothes can last longer. At the top of that list is buying quality items made by trusted and reliable designers. More so, durability in clothing has been linked to helping lower your individual carbon footprint.
But Will It Ever Change Enough?
There's a behemoth challenge ahead for the fashion industry to prove its worth on the pedestal of sustainability. Impact-driven change and innovation have left a gap in the market, recognized by small-time startups and businesses, offering consumers easier and more sustainable access to high-end designer brands.
Change that is drastically needed is now being pioneered by smaller companies, as efforts by fast fashion brands have gone ignored for decades.
But these efforts are not just for the consumer's sake of having better access to luxury brands. It's about the core focus that it brings to the table around conscious shopping and environmentally-driven consumer habits.
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This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.