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The fast fashion paradox

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Searching for sustainable solutions.

What’s the fast fashion paradox?

In a society increasingly focused on sustainability, the trend of fast fashion appears paradoxical. With the aim of quick production, low prices and trend-driven garments, the industry has grown substantially in size. Appealing to those looking for high-end designs with an affordable price tag, this convenience comes at significant social and environmental costs. However, the trend continues to grow and the sustainability of the industry is increasingly a concern to many.

Fast fashion continues to grow despite significant industry risks: Since the early 2000s, the fast fashion paradox has persisted, with retailers marketing clothing as disposable and suppliers continuously cutting costs. The industry is responsible for roughly 8-10% of global carbon emissions, therefore, we address here the fundamental issues it faces to achieve sustainable targets and improve the lives of those negatively impacted.

What’s been driving this growth? Many contributing factors have succeeded in increasing the adoption of the fast fashion model by retailers and purchases of fast garments by consumers. These are summarised in the table below, against six key ESG risks associated both directly and indirectly with the drivers retailers and investors should be aware of and cautious about.

Time for sustainable solutions: We observe growing support for addressing the negative impact of fast fashion. This is catalysed by consumer attitudes, regulations and industry developments. Identifying key trends and solutions for a circular model of fashion, we discuss sustainable materials, technology and supply chains, as well as looking at enablers such as collaboration and waste solutions.

We acknowledging there are significant barriers to overcome; investors and consumers alike have a role to play in driving sustainability in the industry.

First published 14th September 2022.

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