When it comes to fashion and life choices more generally, we are all learning to be more environmentally conscious. This has led to a growing interest in sustainable fashion which remains a considerable gap in the market. Many people grapple with the affordability of fast fashion whilst striving to make more sustainable choices, complicated by a lack of accessibility.
The sustainable fashion industry is rooted in people’s desire to protect the planet and its people. The nature of over-consumption and unethical working conditions that have resulted from it see warehouse employees working in dire conditions earning as little as £3.50 an hour. Growing concerns around these ethical violations and the climate crisis are creating a shift in people’s attitudes towards fashion as people turn their heads to brands that align with more sustainable values.
An analysis by Earth.org found that clothing production has doubled since 2000, producing more C02 than aviation and the shipping industry combined. As the demand for clothing continues to rise, so do the carbon emissions, water wastage, and forced labour that inevitably accompany it.
The fashion industry is still currently dominated by fast fashion brands such as SHEIN and ASOS which, despite people’s growing awareness of their unsustainable practises, remain on top due to their extortionately high turnover of clothes and immensely low prices.
A CGS survey found that a quarter of people consider sustainability to be important when investing in their wardrobe. This creates the opportunity, and challenge, for eco-minded marketers and entrepreneurs to start harnessing this demand and creating a change in the fashion industry from the ground up.
New breaks in the sustainable fashion industry
While not as prevalent as fast and high-fashion brands, sustainable brands do exist. These companies are often branded as unaffordable due to the higher cost of production as well as having more limited options than ordinary brands. Some affordable sustainable brands include Yes Friends CHNGE.
One of the main challenges in sustainable fashion is its accessibility, with a growing number of online stores but a lack of offering on the high street. However, some stores such as H&M have recently introduced a new sustainable line featuring an ‘Earn Conscious’ scheme which allows customers to earn points for every sustainable item they buy.
The rise in demand for sustainable options has inspired online spaces around buying and selling pre-loved items. These include the popular apps Depop and Vinted which allow people to sell on their items typically below face value, providing a more sustainable and affordable option. Sellers can establish entire e-stores with handmade or second-hand clothing, providing solid business opportunities to those wanting some extra cash while keeping it eco-friendly.
Many eco-entrepreneurs have taken to Etsy, Ebay and other such stores to sell sustainable alternatives for products. This often involves sourcing hand-made, natural products and materials that are environmentally friendly and usually of much higher quality than fast fashion alternatives.
Sustainability and influencer culture
The nature of fast fashion is largely attributed to ‘micro-trends’ wherein new fashion trends resurrect every few months. Fashion has always evolved and repeated itself in cycles, but micro-trends in more recent times have seen people over-consuming to new levels.
The emergence of micro-trends is often attributed to influencer culture with famous influencers such as Love Island’s Molly Mae being the face and creative director of PLT, and many other reality stars forming high-profile partnerships with fast fashion brands.
Recent headlines have focused on how the popular reality TV show Love Island has scrapped providing fast fashion to its contestants. Each year, islanders are provided with various items of clothing and swimwear for their time in the villa. Previously the show has partnered up with the likes of Misguided, Pretty Little Thing, and I Saw it First, but in a dynamic move, has scrapped all ties with fast fashion brands.
The decision represents a re-framing of sustainable fashion and a more positive impact of influencer culture. It is hopefully a small step towards phasing out fast fashion and making eco-friendly alternatives the new mainstream.
The future of fast fashion
Sustainable fashion encourages a feeling of community and working towards something bigger than ourselves, and naturally is empathetic at its core. From a business perspective, this humane aspect is perhaps the most important thing to hone in on.
This unique gap in the market needs entrepreneurs to accelerate the transition from fast fashion to sustainable fashion, with affordable alternatives and a re-imagining of the powers of influencer culture being just the start.
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