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Can the fast fashion business model embrace sustainability?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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We all know the trademarks of the fast fashion industry, the negative impact it leaves on the environment, the throwaway culture it breeds to satisfy the need for the new, and the waste is causes when unsold clothes end up in landfill. But by-product aside, the fast fashion business model may in fact have the answer that can circumvent disposability and produce clothes in a more sustainable way, if not ethical, way.

A recent article in Forbes argues that the fast fashion process relies on identifying consumer demand with a quick turnaround to get clothes into stores. Data analytics can help ensure that demand is met with producing correct volumes without so much overstock. It is precisely the overproduction of clothes that leads to the destruction of unsold clothes, and what has proven difficult to accurately quantify. But with global production exceeding 100 billion garments a year, the impact on the environment will be catastrophic if companies keep growing.

Overproduction can be managed

An example is American brand Reformation, who’s founder Yael Aflalo recently told the Sunday Times the brand sees itself as a fast-fashion company, having adopted a trend-led model with new drops twice a week yet by only ever releasing small quantities. By doing so it has avoid producing excess stock as it always sells out. “Most companies produce too much,” Aflalo said. “They sell a certain percentage of it at full price and then put the rest on sale. We don’t do that. We sell almost everything at full price. We only markdown about 10 percent of our stock.”

According to Forbes, this means that pricing can be fairer, given that they don’t need to factor in that most people will buy at a discount.

High volume production versus cost per garment

The question remains, however, if factories can produce smaller volumes at affordable prices. The pricing tier is such that the greater the quantity per style, the better the price per garment. The tragedy of fast fashion manufacturing is the fact it is cheaper to overproduce with a lesser cost per garment. Cheap, volume driven production, is a fast fashion process that must still be addressed.

Image courtesy of Fashion Revolution

Photo courtesy of ThredUp

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