Concern has been expressed by some in the fashion industry about the negative effects, particularly those related to fast fashion products. They have begun to consider ways to design and create garment products that might potentially have the fewest negative consequences on people, other living things, and the planet Earth over their whole life cycle. This kind of item is typically referred to as “sustainable fashion.” The idea of sustainable fashion is limited to garment goods that maximize positive and minimize negative environmental, social, and economic effects along their supply and value chain, according to the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (1987) stance on “sustainability.” The term “sustainable fashion” refers to a broad category of terms, including “organic,” “green,” “fair trade,” “sustainable,” “slow,” “eco,” and others, all of which aim to draw attention to or address various perceived flaws in the fashion industry, such as environmental harm, and worker exploitation. Denim and the blue jeans industry is one of the most environmentally hazardous industry regarded by many. However, it does not stop the growth and popularity of blue jeans fashion perceived by the consumer. This article introduces a blue jean fashion model that is crafted opposing the typical fast fashion trends, that is sustainable and scalable.
Fast Fashion, Is it Bad?
The phrase “fast fashion” has gained popularity in discussions of fashion, sustainability, and environmental awareness. In order to capitalize on current trends, the phrase is used to describe “cheaply created and priced items that replicate the latest catwalk styles and be pumped through stores swiftly.” The fast fashion model is so named because it involves the quick design, production, distribution, and marketing of apparel. As a result, shops are able to offer huge amounts of a wider range of products, giving customers access to more fashion and product distinction at a lower cost. When Zara arrived in New York at the start of the 1990s, the phrase was first utilized. The New York Times coined the term “fast fashion” to characterize Zara’s goal to take only 15 days from the design stage to be sold to consumers.
Clothing retailers like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M make cheap and fashionable clothing to satisfy the needs of young consumers. Yet, fast fashion has a significant environmental impact. According to the UN Environment Program, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Unfortunately, fast fashion problems are often overlooked by consumers.
According to Business Insider, fashion production comprises 10% of total global carbon emissions, as much as the European Union. It dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams, while 85% of all textiles go to dumps each year. Even washing clothes releases 500 000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
The Quantis International 2018 report found that the three main drivers of the industry’s global pollution impacts are dyeing and finishing (36%), yarn preparation (28%) and fibre production (15%). The report also established that fibre production has the largest impact on freshwater withdrawal (water diverted or withdrawn from a surface water or groundwater source) and ecosystem quality due to cotton cultivation, while the dyeing and finishing, yarn preparation and fibre production stages have the highest impacts on resource depletion, due to the energy-intensive processes based on fossil fuel energy.
According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, emissions from textile manufacturing alone are projected to skyrocket by 60% by 2030. The time it takes for a product to go through the supply chain, from design to purchase, is called a ‘lead time’. In 2012, Zara was able to design, produce and deliver a new garment in two weeks; Forever 21 in six weeks and H&M in eight weeks. This results in the fashion industry producing obscene amounts of waste.
Is Slow Fashion, the Solution?
The popular response to fast fashion is slow fashion, which argues against unnecessarily high production, convoluted supply systems, and unthinking consumption. It promotes ethical production that is kind to both people and animals.
According to the World Resources Institute, businesses should develop, test, and invest in business models that encourage the reuse of clothing and extend its usable life. To combat the harms brought on by quick fashion, the UN established the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. It aims to “stop the socially and environmentally damaging practices of fashion.”
By purchasing from secondhand merchants like ThredUp Inc. and Poshmark, both of which are situated in California, USA, customers can reduce their consumption of fast fashion. Customers can also send their unwanted clothing to these websites and sell their items there.
Another option is to rent clothing from companies like Rent the Runway and Gwynnie Bee in the US, Girl Meets Dress in the UK, and Mud Jeans in the Netherlands, which rents organic jeans that may be kept, exchanged, or returned.
Adidas and other retailers are experimenting with customized apparel to decrease returns, boost customer satisfaction, and save inventory. By 2025, Ralph Lauren intends to employ only critical materials from sustainably sourced sources. Governments should take a more active role in addressing the negative effects of the fashion industry. Parliamentarians’ report to address the negative environmental effects of rapid fashion was rejected by UK ministers. On the other hand, to make the fashion business more sustainable, French President Emmanuel Macron signed a deal with 150 brands. The best advice on reducing fast fashion comes from Patsy Perry, senior lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester, who says, “Less is always more.”
Slow Blue Jeans Fashion Model- Circular Thinking
Keeping the environmental and social impact of the denim and jeans industry fast fashion, brands are striving for slow fashion moves. Traditional manufacturing has followed a flat, linear model. Resources are transformed into products which are sold and eventually discarded. Circularity calls for a fundamental change, starting with design and running all the way through a product’s lifecycle. Its chief principles are that products should be designed with easy reuse or recycling in mind that reused materials should be used instead of net new resources where possible, and that products should last longer. But now, leading fashion brands and manufacturers are to transform the way they produce jeans, tackling waste, pollution, and the use of harmful practices, thanks to new guidelines published today by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The guideline in the respect of the health, safety, and rights of people involved in all parts of the fashion industry is a prerequisite, along with working conditions improvement in manufacturing globally has the potential to transform the denim industry. Beyond this, the Guidelines provide minimum requirements for jeans on durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability. They are:
- Jeans should withstand a minimum of 30 home laundries, while still meeting the minimum quality requirements of the brands
- Garments should include labels with clear information on product care
- Jeans should be produced using cellulose fibres from regenerative, organic or transitional farming methods
- Jeans should be free of hazardous chemicals and conventional electroplating. Stone finishing, potassium permanganate (PP), and sandblasting are prohibited
- Jeans should be made with a minimum of 98% cellulose fibres (by weight)
- Metal rivets should be designed out, or reduced to a minimum
- Any additional material added to the jeans, should be easy to disassemble
- Information that confirms each element of the Guideline requirements has been met should be made easily available
- Organisations that meet the requirements will be granted permission to use the Jeans Redesign Logo on jeans produced in line with the Guidelines
- Jeans Redesign Logo use will be reassessed annually, based on compliance with reporting requirements
Slow fashion is described as quality apparel which has a longer useful life and is more highly valued than typical fast fashion apparel. It appears that denim is headed towards a more sustainable future. Various brands are trying their hand at manufacturing sustainable denim. While none are perfect, each brand chooses specific items on which to focus — such as factories that manufacture denim using less water, or producers that are versed in the latest and most sustainable finishing methods. Most are incorporating fair labor practices into their missions, as well. However, the denim industry is still rapidly growing, and to really improve overall sustainability, the enormous amount of denim produced each year must decline.
- A slow fashion design model for bluejeans using house of quality approach, Nargis. B., Chandan. C., 17th World Textile Conference of the Association-of-Universities-for-Textiles (AUTEX) – Shaping the Future of Textiles, 2017