Fast fashion is a term being used more and more to describe clothing that moves quickly from runway to store to consumer, but also to landfill. According to The New York Times, nearly three-fifths of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced. As generation Z becomes more aware of their carbon footprint and what it takes to reduce it, fashion retailers are forced to reinvent themselves with the goal to reduce waste and manufacture in an eco-friendlier way. Rates and working conditions in factories, the origin of raw materials, the use of chemicals, the amount of water it takes to make a product and waste are but a few concerns of the average consumer.
From an environmental perspective, the fashion industry can do a lot better and with production being doubled in the past ten years, retailers need to act quickly in order to keep up with the demand of a new environmentally conscious generation. Is technology the fast solution to slow down fast fashion?
In the UK, cotton is one of the most worn materials. The cotton industry keeps growing year on year and for decades it’s been believed to be eco-friendly, but it has been recently highlighted that cotton is one of the worst for the environment. The non-profit Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) reported that cotton uses 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides—more than any other single major crop. There’s also a huge concern for the huge amount of water it takes to produce garments made from cotton. So, if cotton is environmentally bad, what can fashion retailers use instead?
Eco-conscious consumers and worldwide policies are putting pressure on brands to come up with imaginative solutions quickly. In October 2018, following a UN initiative, 250 major brands including pledged to cut single-use plastics from their supply chain and manufacture clothing using fewer materials which negatively impact the environment, leading the way for upcycling.
Upcycling takes waste materials and unwanted products and instead of putting them into landfill, transforms them into new products of better quality and environmental value. On top of this, many big high street brands are turning to plastic to make clothing. Recycled plastic can be chipped, melted down and spun into yarn to make your next staple wardrobe piece. The unheard of is now becoming a reality for many brands, but the next step is equipping consumers and front-line employees with the knowledge of the journey each piece of clothing takes before getting to the till.
The heightened expectation of consumers starts from the moment they enter the store, expecting higher quality service and confidence in the clothing they’re wanting to purchase. Retailers are needing to equip their frontline employees with the connected tools to enable them to quickly educate potential customers of the manufacturing process and the origins of the materials, emphasising organisational values and a potential USP. By ensuring all employees within the store have these connected tools they’re able to deliver an exceptional customer service experience while also being able to easily portray the journey of the clothing. This is a huge step forward in ensuring consumers are confident that their purchases have been created in an ethical manner with a lower carbon footprint. A recent case study from Dr Martens highlighted how the use of connected tools rather than silo systems has helped intertwine their buying and manufacturing processes ensuring that they are on top of seasonal and global trends. This ensures they’re not wasting huge amounts of products that may end up in landfill. These technologies, among others, are essential in ensuring an eco-friendlier industry.
Our recent animated video series highlights examples of how retailers can equip their front-line employees with the applications to educate the consumer on the ethical values of each product line during their decision-making process. Check it out here.