Is Sustainability Just Another Micro-Trend?
One of the most important elements of business management is understanding what means may relevant; however, with a growing stress on the importance of accessible and sustainable fashion, being known for not keeping up is not ideal at all.
Since 2013, the trendsetter, H&M implemented a garment recycling scheme, where consumers could bring their preloved clothing into stores to have the textiles recycled into new products. This was later followed up with them launching a recycled clothing range.
High street giant, Primark has also implemented sustainability into their stock, launching a homeware collection of ethically sourced green products. They also stressed that they would be using sustainable means to create some of their products in the future.
But what about the online shopping giants? These giants whose profits only inflated during the pandemic, and a lack of in-store browsing to sate the shopping habits of the public. Companies like Shein, Boohoo, Asos, Pretty Little Thing and Misguided became the go-to for many shoppers during the lockdown months, some brands having fashion options that were more accessible than others; whether that be financially, or with a more inclusive sizing range.
These brands are renowned for their quick turnarounds, making them successful fast fashion brands. However, there is an ethical debate to assess. Did you know, however, that many of these companies are owned by the same individuals. For example, as identified by the BBC, Boohoo in itself owns thirteen brands: Boohoo, BoohooMan, Coast, Karen Millen, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, Oasis, Wallis, Burton, Debenhams, PrettyLittleThing, NastyGal and MissPap. These brands look at men’s and women’s fashion in a variety of different aesthetics, price ranges and ages, with young women more likely to shop on Boohoo or PrettyLittleThing, than at Oasis or Debenhams.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s research back in 2019, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. This makes sense as there are a great volume of fast fashion brands striving to remain competitive by launching numerous new products online, on a daily basis. In an age of social media, where people feel judged for repeating an outfit on their Instagram feed, as well as a time where immediate gratification was at a high, as was doomscrolling, particularly in lockdown, many consumers made plans for what they would do once restrictions were lifted, and, also, what they would wear while doing it. This idea was expressed perfectly by Boohoo’s boss, John Lyttle, “"Immediacy is the biggest trend in the last 18 months and that's getting greater and greater.” And, although there is no guarantee that these outfits will be worn once, from social media alone, it is clear that many people have upgraded their wardrobes during each of the UK’s lockdowns.
However, in August 2021, Lyttle discussed the nature of the store with the BBC, saying that Boohoo had a "clear strategy" for being more sustainable, expressing that "20% of all [Boohoo’s] ranges will be sustainable this autumn... 40% next spring/summer." they are “not a throwaway fashion brand”, meaning that the purpose of Boohoo and the affiliated brands it owns, do not exist with the intent of simply making clothes to be worn once. This statement alone implied that the clothing is therefore of a high enough quality to last many social events, and rigorous wear, and were durable enough to withstand it.
Many fast fashion brands, but particularly Shein, are slandered for the poor quality of clothing they produce, with many who work in the business of sustainable fashion, and second hand fashion, regarding the quality of these items as bad on platforms such as TikTok. In these videos, they acknowledge that the garments that they have found from Shein that have already been donated would likely not survive long enough to make it onto the racks of a charity shop, because when you go into a charity shop, you expect to buy hardy clothes, clothes that have plenty of wear in them, and, you cannot guarantee that with items from Shein. This is a striking contrast when compared with the current trends in charity shops and thrift stores across the US and UK, with the rebirth of y2k fashion being desirable during the spring and summer months in particular. This idea of vintage y2k clothes surviving between fifteen and twenty years in storage, and still being wearable, is something that cheaper quality synthetic fabrics cannot do. Therefore, when the cycle of fashion continues to roll forward, the less likely you would be to find authentic fashion from that time.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg stressed on August 8th 2021, that “You cannot mass produce fashion or consume ”sustainably” as the world is shaped today. That is one of the many reasons why we will need a system change.”
This system change would have to be far greater; spanning a breakdown of the current societal model we live in today, dismantling capitalism and making sure every individual on this planet can afford to wear ethical fashion, with a vast range of sizes, and therefore, reduce if not eradicate the need for brands like Shein to exist. As great as the environmental implications of fast fashion are, for some, the only place where people from economically deprived areas, or who wear clothing above a UK size 18, struggle to find trendy clothes within a budget.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: email@example.com