Are big businesses finally taking their responsibilities towards sustainable fast fashion seriously enough? In this article, we’ll take a further look at the efforts and challenges still remaining for big fashion brands.

As the end of October approaches, nothing highlights throwaway attitudes towards clothing quite as much as Halloween. It’s estimated that this Halloween, up to 2,000 tons of plastic waste which is equivalent to 83 million plastic bottles will be literally thrown away after use. Plastic masks, polyester witches hats and comedy single-use costumes will all be destined to be thrown in landfill. While Halloween costumes aren’t ever going to be part of a consistently used wardrobe, the willingness of consumers to ignore sustainability completely for a quick costume fix is a reflection of attitudes towards fast fashion. Consumer attitudes remain a massive obstacle for tackling fast fashion impacts in any meaningful way.

Is consumer attitude change the responsibility of big business?

How to change consumer attitudes towards buying clothes and consuming fashion at an increasing rate is a complex issue. Whilst consumers are ultimately responsible for what they buy; pressure advertising, social media and increased production lines from fast fashion brands all play an important role in encouraging consumers to spend on fast fashion. But now, new research has reported European CEOs citing that leading consumer change is an essential focus for fashion companies operating today. For sustainability, this is welcome news. Rather than solely focusing on profit creation, fast fashion companies must create an effective shift in their business models too, driving consumers towards sustainability. Rather than linear production to profit models, fashion companies must adopt a more circular approach, utilising tools such as reuse and resale, rather than just consume and throw away.

How will big business encourage consumer behaviour change?

Through increased consumer awareness of environmental pressures and customer demand, sustainability in fashion is experiencing a PR boost; but it’s not enough. Consumers are only part of the puzzle; and they’re weak in the face of a global fashion brand pushing cheap clothing and ever-changing manufactured ‘seasons’ in fashion. Global fast fashion brands must take responsibility for driving behaviour change in consumers. Ways they can encourage more sustainable attitudes towards fashion include:

  • Promoting concepts such as reuse and repurpose rather than simply buying new.
  • Reducing the volume of new garment collections, so consumers don’t feel a constant pressure to ‘keep up’.
  • Increase social media advertising that encourages the use of existing items already owned by the customer, rather than buying new items to share on social media platforms such as Instagram
  • Brands need to take their role in actively creating sustainable fashion seriously, utilising psychology tools such as social proof make buying less and increasing reuse more attractive. Psychologically, consumers all like to be the same- could this help drive more sustainable choices?

Will big brands be able to change consumer behaviour?

Arguably, the advertising efforts and profit-focused goals of big fashion brands have created consumers addicted to a quick, cheap fashion fix in the first place. While many brands might disagree, consumers can only respond to and buy what is offered to them. To really make an impact on sustainability before it’s too late, brands must now take their responsibilities in changing consumer behaviour seriously. Changes in business models are needed, and while this may create short-term profit impacts for a business; it’s the only way to future proof sustainable fashion, as well as ensuring the planet lasts into the future.

Who do you think is responsible for changing consumer attitudes towards fast fashion? Are big brands doing enough?

Textile Consult operates globally and in the UK, consulting on a variety of management, training and sustainability issues within the textile industry. Contact us today to find out how we’ll work with you to find effective, sustainable solutions for your company.