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Fast fashion creates an imbalanced situation in product lifecycle

Fashion brands destroy billions’ worth of their own merchandise every year to cope up with the fast fashion trend.

Imranul Imran

Fast fashion, a concept of satisfying customer demand by providing their desired quality and style of fabrics at minimum buying cost within the shortest possible time. On this perspective of fast fashion, the buying habit has been totally changed. Customers buy fabrics more than before. On the concept of retailer business, every retailer is trying to provide their unique style of products within the shortest possible time for the customer.

Fast fashion creates an imbalanced situation in product lifecycle
Figure 1: Customer’s consuming behavior is changing rapidly for fast fashion. Courtesy: Huffington Post

This scenario creates an imbalanced situation in product lifecycle and shortens the product life cycle at a serious level. Previously, the customers use to buy their desired products in mainly four- sessions all over the year. Due to the fast fashion retail culture, almost every day, a new style of product is arriving in a retail store. As a result, a consumer gets an opportunity to change their cloths within very short time due to the lower price of the product containing fashion diversification.

Manufactures produce a huge number of garments every year and sell through the distribution channel of fashion brands. But, the main concern is that a huge amount of disposable products from the customer are not handled in a proper way to maintain the environmental standard.

As statistics show that, the textile industries are the second largest environment pollution sources caused by using organic chemicals in different stages of product processing and the consumption of groundwater for raw material cultivation as well as product processing.

Environment is being polluted by textile industries
Figure 2: Environment is being polluted by textile industries.

Owing to the worldwide environmental issues and suitability as well as the promoting the idea of ethical fashion, most retailers are starting in the path of recycling technology to mitigate this worldwide burning issue and sustain their business. One of the biggest retailer H&M started their journey several years ago. Recently, Walmart has started their journey in the recycling arena to sustain their business and handling the changing behavior of the customer. Actually, recycling has developed a new concept in fashion industry called circular fashion.

Also Read: Consumer behaviour, fast fashion, and sustainability

Recycling technology has created a milestone in the fashion industry. But, the real scenario is still not at the satisfactory level because of the complex supply chain of fashion retailers. Generally, retailers collect disposable garments with an incentive from customers. As a result, customers feel a greater satisfaction to save the environment and buy another one at a less price.

Recycling initiative of H&M, one of the largest fashion Retailer
Figure 3: Recycling initiative of H&M, one of the largest fashion Retailer. Courtesy: H&M

But, according to Marketplace (Report), only a small amount of fabrics are recycled back. Fashion Brands consumes a huge number of disposable garments. Some portion is distributed within the big charity organizations, some portion is given to the supply chain of African countries garments business.

Which creates another hassle. Actually, this kind of disposable garments creates an imbalance in the garments sector of the African countries. Because this kind of fabric can be collected at a less price and decrease the value of their home textiles. Recently, maximum African countries have banned the imported second- hand garments in their country.

Second-hand garments market in the African Region
Figure 4: Second-hand garments market in the African Region. Courtesy: DW.COM

According to a Guardian Report, there are a lot of barriers in the existing recycling technology. It is easily possible to implement the concept of circular fashion when the fabric is produced from virgin cotton. It is very tough to implement recycling technology when the fabric is blended from several fiber construction. Recycling technology should be developed for blended fabric.

Landfill or dumping is a very easy solution for retailers. Because it takes a minimum cost. On the other hand, the recycling process needs manpower utilization and manufacturing cost of new products. In most cases, recycling product cannot exceed the quality level and performance standard. Though landfill is an easy solution but it creates a serious environmental effect.

Also, disposable fabrics take huge time to mix with soil. In different countries, the incineration technique is applied to produce power. But, it is not an environment-friendly technique to handle these kind of disposable fabrics. For an example, at the time of burning fabrics to produce power, different types of toxic gasses are emitted into the atmosphere.

Circular fashion, zero waste product production scheme
Figure 5: Circular fashion, zero waste product production scheme. Courtesy: Sayed

According to France 24 English, Sweden has created a milestone in the waste recycling industry. They are turning wastes into gold by means of modern power generation technology from disposable garments and other trashes. At this moment, they are importing a huge amount of trashes from other countries through shipment.

Retailers do not reveal their total entire waste recycling scheme publicly. This creates a doubt about the waste recycling project of the different fashion brand. It is very unexpectable for us when different fashion brands damp their unsold merchandise products. For example, a Danish TV station revealed that the fast-fashion retailer H&M had burned 60 tons of new and unsold clothes since 2013. This circumstance has frequently happened in fashion industries. Actually, fashion brands focus on their brand value and own images rather than environmental safety in this cases.

According to Vox, the British luxury brand Burberry brought in $3.6 billion in revenue last year — and destroyed $36.8 million worth of its own merchandise. In July 2018, the brand admitted in its annual report that demolishing goods was just part of its strategy to preserve its reputation of exclusivity. Shoppers did not react well to this news. People vowed to boycott Burberry over its wastefulness, while members of Parliament demanded the British government crackdown on the practice. The outrage worked: Burberry announced a few days ago it would no longer destroy its excess product, effective immediately. Yet Burberry is hardly the only company to use this practice; it runs high to low, from Louis Vuitton to Nike.

Swedish recycling revolution for renewable energy
Figure 6: Swedish recycling revolution for renewable energy. Courtesy: Treehugger

Burberry has created a path in the retail business about their own wastes of merchandise and announces to go through the waste recycling industries. According to Timo Rissanen, an associate dean at Parsons School of Design and a professor of fashion design and sustainability at the school’s Tishman Environment and Design Center, “I think that companies will follow in Burberry’s footsteps and stop destroying their merch do think it will take some time. Because we are talking about a whole system, and it will not come to a halt because of a little bit of bad publicity. But I do think that being called out forces brands to take a look at what’s happening and start to have conversations about what they can do about it.”

Fashion brands should come forward to work with all stakeholder of fashion industries and develop the proper strategy of handling unsold merchandise goods, secondhand clothing’s and waste recycling scheme as well as the landfill of garments to make our world  more environmentally friendly.

Read More: Deadly costs of ‘fast fashion’

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