The Irony of Fast Fashion’s Sustainability Initiatives

by: Zoeleika Yollanda – 2440041876

In this modern era, there are many fast fashion brands thriving and emerging as a result of the public responding very well towards rapid trend changes. Every minute of the day, shelves are restocked as unsold inventory goes to the discount rack, and new clothes are being bought as old clothes are thrown away. It is common knowledge that the largest contributors to this unsustainable habit are fast fashion brands, yet many people seem to find it difficult to stop purchasing fast fashion items. However, as more and more consumers become aware of the dangers of fast fashion, many of them become concerned with the future and its sustainability, and how fast fashion is a significant contributor to damaging the planet further. To appeal to this awareness, many fast fashion brands begin sustainability initiatives as a part of their company policy to combat the damages caused by fast fashion and regain the appeal of the public.

One of the sustainability initiatives started by fashion brands are designing and making clothing using materials made from waste or creating new clothes out of second-hand clothing. An example of fast-fashion sustainability initiatives like this would be Loop by H&M, a garment system that processes old clothing into new ones. The process uses a specific recycling technology in which old clothes are shredded into fibers and then spun into yarn. In order to add to the strength of the newly made material, sustainably sourced virgin materials are added into the material before it is designed into a new garment. H&M states that this technology uses no water nor chemicals, therefore leaving a low impact on the environment compared to creating garments from virgin raw materials.

Despite the various efforts by fast fashion brands, the fast fashion industry itself is responsible for one-third of the microplastics found in the ocean, 20% of the global water waste, and 85% of textile landfills every year. Furthermore, many fast fashion brands have been caught in controversies involving poor working conditions, underpaying workers, and child labour. Moreover, technologies used by fast fashion brands to support their sustainability initiatives are scarce and expensive. As private businesses whose aim is to maximise their profit, it is highly unlikely for these companies to prioritise the environment and sustainability efforts compared to their aim for profit maximisation.

It is in the nature of the fast fashion industry to mass produce clothing with massive waste products and encourage consumers to purchase more as trends evolve rapidly and the need to fit into society and to be trendy gradually arises. By 2030, worldwide consumption is estimated to rise by 63%. These sustainability efforts, when compared to the mass production of garments by the fast fashion industry, will still be unable to significantly contribute to worldwide sustainability goals as a result of continuous mass production and their refusal to produce less in order to not hinder their profit maximisation goals.


Zoeleika Yollanda