Making Fast Fashion Sustainable, Is It Possible?

posted by Chris Valentine

Fast fashion is one of the highest-grossing sectors in the fashion industry, however, the reasons that make it so popular are the same ones that make it extremely harmful for the environment. Over half of the fast-fashion items are disposed of within a year of their purchase, usually ending up in landfills. Moreover, the fast fashion industry is said to contribute more to climate change than sea and air travel combined. Despite all that, fast fashion continues to be favored by people all over the world and since disposable clothing doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, surely there are ways that can make it more sustainable, right?

How Can You Help?

The road towards a more sustainable fast fashion industry starts with individual actions. Whether you’re looking to produce a large number of clothes for your business or are just buying clothes for personal use, take the time to do a little research on the manufacturing country where the clothes are made. Based on the country of origin, you can have a better idea of the kind of standards that the manufacturers follow and, accordingly, you can make better purchasing decisions. Some countries are already working on reducing pollutants by adopting a more environmentally-friendly approach to apparel manufacturing.

For instance, Vietnam -one of the biggest textile and garment exporters in the world- is going to great lengths to make the fast fashion industry more sustainable by implementing stricter environmental protection laws and enforcing larger fines on manufacturers for breaching them. The import/export agents at, explain that by sourcing your clothes from a Vietnamese-based company, you can rest assured that your clothes abide by strict, environmentally-friendly standards. This way, you can make any fashion statement you want guilt-free.

How Can the Retailers Contribute?

Typically, fashion retailers release large quantities of clothes all at once. These items usually stay in stock for a very long time until eventually, shoppers become sick of seeing the same items everywhere. To get rid of the leftover stock, retailers resolve to offer the excess stock at heavily discounted prices. Naturally, shoppers respond greatly to lower prices, buying more items than they need just because they’re on sale. This, in turn, results in more waste.

To counter this problem, some retailers have adopted a different marketing strategy where they release new items more often but in smaller quantities. This can help ensure that the stock will retain its desirability and sell out faster, which might eventually lead to the more sustainable fast fashion industry. Another way that retailers can tackle the sustainability challenge is by collecting used clothes and footwear and giving them a new life through reuse and recycling.

But if they really want to elicit change, fashion retailers should focus on the manufacturing process. The majority of businesses don’t own the factories manufacturing their clothes and most companies often use their lack of factory ownership to justify their limited influence on the production process. However, these big companies deal with their supply chains in large numbers, so if anyone can pressure the manufacturers and suppliers to abide by higher, more environmentally-friendly standards and expand their use of nontoxic sustainable technology in the textile and footwear manufacturing process, it’d be them.

What Can the Manufacturers Do?

The biggest key to change lies within the manufacturers’ reach. Fiber and fabric production contribute to a high percentage of the industry’s total global climate impact. By investing in the invention of new fibers and the development of mechanical and chemical recycling technologies, apparel manufacturers can greatly improve the efficiency and sustainability of textile production.

The use of 3D technology during the design, sampling, and prototyping processes can also reduce production volume and help cut textile waste. Luckily, these technologies can be implemented right away if the manufacturers put the effort to make managing and operating 3D technology a priority.

Washing clothes in warm water and drying them at a high temperature for longer than needed wastes a lot of energy. To conserve these resources, fast-fashion retailers and manufacturers can steer their consumers towards low-impact practices that take a smaller toll on the environment while keeping their clothes in good shape.

The current low-tech production process of fast fashion clothes typically requires a lot of water, chemicals, pesticides, and insecticides, wasting a lot of energy and resources and emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gases. To make fast fashion more sustainable, changes have to made by the manufacturers, retailers, and consumers alike. The governments around the world also have an important role to play. By implementing stern environmental protection laws and strict fines, governments can drastically change how fast fashion clothes are made and used. Together, these joint efforts can make for the more sustainable fashion industry and a healthier planet.

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