A Fast Fashion Fix
The Sunday ZEITGUIDE
March 24th, 2019
Will Style Subscriptions & New Materials Be Enough to Solve Fast Fashion’s Sustainability Problem?
Fast fashion might have lowered the cost of clothing, but we pay a high price for keeping up with today’s styles. That’s because the apparel industry has an enormous environmental footprint: According to a 2018 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the clothing industry is responsible for 20 percent of global water wasteand 10 percent of emissions. Not only that, most clothing is thrown away. About 85 percent of all textiles will end up in landfills.
Exacerbating the problem is fashion’s whiplash pace. Brands quickly produce and sell styles that then rapidly fall out of favor. The fast fashion trend is accelerated by social media and by the ease of online shopping: you see it, you buy it, you scrap it.
So, What Can Be Done to Fix This Problem?
—The rise of subscription services has remade the concept of ownership for everything from music, to movies, to cars. Could clothes be next? A McKinsey and Company report published in partnership with Business of Fashion predicts that the end of ownership will be a defining trend of the future of fashion. Reasons include consumer concerns around sustainability, as well as the appeal of paying a flat fee to access a vast wardrobe that is kept current. Already, services such as Rent the Runway and LeTote are turning shoppers into monthly subscribers who can access clothes from top designers such as Jason Wu, Derek Lam, Kate Spade and Diane Von Furstenberg.
—In addition to remaking ownership, we’re seeing a revolution in the clothes themselves. There are promising new bioengineered materials, like lab-grown leather and synthetic diamonds. Students and researchers at the Fashion Institute of Technology are pioneering how to turn living bacteria, algae, yeast, animal cells, and fungi into textiles and dyes. These are biodegradable and, because they can grow into specific shapes, could cut down on waste in production. Brands are also looking for packaging made from recycled material or biodegradable components sourced from products such as sugarcane.
The Must-Have Conversation
The ultimate dream for all industries is to move toward a circular economy, one in which everything we produce can be reused, repurposed or disposed of in a planet-friendly manner that doesn’t hurt profits. How we get there remains a question, considering our increasingly fickle tastes and fast-changing desires. One thing is for sure: the way we shop, consume and dispose of everything we use will have to be completely rethought.
What Else We’re Reading This Week
In Isolating Ourselves from Dirt, Germs & Bacteria, Are We Creating a Greater Threat to Our Health and Happiness? – The New York Times
What Does China’s Live-Streaming Obsession Mean for its Culture and its People? – Sixth Tone
Global & Society
How Did Three Cities Succeed in Ending Chronic Homelessness? – Fast Company
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