Fashion is what we use to express ourselves through the unique patterns, styles, and material that is used for every new season. Nowadays, fashion is cheaper than ever, and more accessible through physical stores or online retail.
This has created a business model called fast fashion. According to Merriam-Webster, fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly in mass quantities in response to latest trends. Stores that encompass this business model are Forever 21, Zara, H&M, and more. This model can even be seen on online retail stores like Zaful, Romwe, Pretty Little Things, and Fashionnova. These companies use cheap materials, with workers being paid low wages in order to make a profit. The question does come to mind how do these brands make money if the clothes are so cheap? They make money by selling quantity; they sell in bulk to offset the low prices.
This business model fits in with today's society of wanting instant gratification. When we purchase cheap clothing, we get a rush of gratification, but after a while of having the items we lose the gratification rush and have the need to replenish.
Fast Fashion is destroying our planet with high use of resources, pollution, and waste. According to the New York Times, “More than 60% of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, rayon, wooly acrylic, and spandex are made from fossil fuels more specifically petroleum. With the amount of garments being made with synthetic fibers, it requires high use of fossil fuels which enhance the need and reliance on them. Furthermore, these synthetic fibers are not biodegradable so when someone throws an article of clothing out made of synthetic material, it will stay as it is for decades or more.
In the past, consumers preferred to pay more for major labels for brand names and ensured quality. Today consumers still want fashion but aren’t willing to pay as much. They are more willing to buy replicas or knock-offs. Fast fashion became popular because of how quick style on the catwalk becomes a fashion trend. Retailers trying to maximize profits mass produce trendy clothing as quickly as possible. The retailers base their designs based off the biggest fashion shows with the goal of giving consumers high end looks at affordable prices. However if we really want to look at the history of fast fashion, we must go way back to its roots, the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Revolution, people either made their own clothes or spent lots of money having a tailor custom make it for them. Factories emerged in the Revolution and a textile revolution began in Europe. They now had the technology to grow and pick more cotton and transform it into fabric and textiles faster than ever before. With this came clothing factories. The most famous clothing factory in the 20th century is the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory because of a massive fire that killed 146, mainly women and girls.
Certified B Corporations
There are many ways to discover if a company is sustainable. However, it can be difficult searching the brand on their website to know if they are striving towards being more sustainable. On the other hand, we often don’t have time to research companies all the time. Having a program where companies are subjected to strict rules, monitored, and certified with a logo allows customers to have confidence that they clothing they are buying is sustainable. An example of this is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) creating a strict and rigorous certification process for organic farms to follow in order to have the USDA organic label on their products. The logo gives the customer confidence that what they are buying is organic and has followed the guidelines. A similar program has been created for sustainable fashion called Certified B Corporations. Certified B Corporation have to meet the highest standard of verifiable social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability (About B Corps). Certified B corporations work to reduce inequality, lower levels of poverty, and create an overall positive impact in the community (About B Corps). On the Certified B Corporation’s website you can track the score of each certified company which allows transparency for the consumer. Their focus is to make great quality products without harming the environment in the least way possible. You can often find out whether a shop is certified by easily looking at the store front or right when you go inside; stores often like to let you know they are certified.
Companies that are B- Certified
Outdoor company that makes high quality gear that will last for decades
Can shop used gear rather than buying new
Donates 1% of their annual net revenue to non profit charities focused on sustainability (Leighton, 2019)
“Buy one, give one” to donate socks to the homeless; has donated over 8.5 million pairs of socks
Athletic apparel brand
Designed by female athletes and works to improve the lives of the female-majority employees (B the Change, 2018)
40% of apparel made from recycled material (B the Change, 2018)
Goal of 2020 to have 80% of it apparel be made from sustainable fibers (Leighton, 2019)
Shoe brand that focuses on creating comfortable shoes that you can walk and stand in all day
Shoes made from ZQ wool (strict standards for sustainable farming and animal welfare) (Leighton, 2019)
Use 60% less energy than synthetic wool materials (Leighton, 2019)
Outdoor brand with their well known colorblock style throughout their clothing
Donates 2% of yearly revenue to local organizations working to end poverty by focusing on sustainable solutions (Leighton, 2019)
Handmade leather shoes and accessories
Use direct to consumer model to ensure ethical factories by cutting out the middleman (B the Change, 2018)
Work with artist in Eastern African countries who receive the orders, produce the product, and manage deliveries (B the Change, 2018)
While some of these products are on the pricier end, it’s not about getting as much as you can, but buying what you need and having that product last you for years. You often spend more money by buying garments more often than you do spending more on one garment that will last you years.
“About B Corps.” About B Corps | Certified B Corporation, https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps.
B the Change. “9 B Corps Leading in Ethical Fashion.” Medium, B The Change, 29 Nov. 2018, https://bthechange.com/9-b-corps-leading-in-ethical-fashion-c7c659f6c92e.
“Fast Fashion.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fast fashion.
Leighton, Mara. “B Corps Are Businesses Committed to Using Their Profit for Good - These 12 Are Making Some Truly Great Products.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 6 June 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/b-corp-charitable-business-2018-8.
Revell, Jenny. “The History of Fast Fashion.” Tremr, 7 Feb. 2018, www.tremr.com/jenny-revell/the-history-of-fast-fashion.
“The Rise of Fast Fashion.” Edology, www.edology.com/blog/fashion-media/rise-of-fast-fashion/.
Perkins, Sheryl. “Clothing and Textiles in the Industrial Revolution.” Blankstyle.com Blank Wholesale T-Shirts from American Apparel, Bella + Canvas, Next Level Apparel, www.blankstyle.com/articles/clothing-and-textiles-industrial-revolution.
~ Written by: Meagann Russell & Julia Stevens ~