Forever 21 recently filed for bankruptcy, and it joins a growing line of fashion brands and retailers closing its doors in the wake of declining sales over the past two years—Barney’s New York, David’s Bridal, Claire’s, Payless, to name a few.1 http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/retail-woes-a-bankruptcy-timeline 2 https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/03/2019-store-closings-list-these-retailers-shuttering-locations/1597997001/
And it’s not uncommon to hear that beloved department stores, while not closing completely, are shuttering certain stores. Just look at Macy’s recent announcement that they will be closing their landmark store in Seattle.3 https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/macys-is-closing-its-landmark-downtown-seattle-store/
But the closing of these stores—often falling under the label of “fast fashion” (re: clothes that move from catwalk to consumers quickly, and are made inexpensively, in order to capture the latest fashion trends)—is a signal that fashion retail trends are changing just as fast as the fashions themselves. What’s more, it’s showing that there’s a new era emerging, one that’s been showing itself across all of CPG, and growing in prominence: Sustainability.
Wait—what is sustainable fashion, and why should I wear it?
Great question. You’ve probably heard the term, but sometimes it means different things to different people. In a nutshell, it’s not just about the textiles used, it’s about the process of bringing fashion to market as a whole, and everything that it includes, like the cultural and ecological aspects, and it has to take into account all stakeholders, from the users and the producers, current and future people living on the planet.4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_fashion
Increasingly, consumers would rather go naked than wear clothing made from fabric that could be harmful to the environment, or contain carcinogens, or toxins or just overall bad chemicals. Okay, maybe they wouldn’t go naked per se, but the way a piece of clothing or an accessory is made is something consumers are concerned about. They don’t want the bad stuff on their body or on their planet.
So…fast fashion is a no-go?
Seems that way. Or at least its popularity is lessening. While the appeal of having clothes that go from runway to this weekend’s party at lightning speed is still there, the ecological implications are gauche for many consumers.
A recent Forbes article noted that, “Professional women are catching on to the new trends in textiles and technology. They are choosing garments and materials engineered to last longer. Some of the most sustainable materials are natural fibers (cotton, hemp, linen) and futuristic/innovative fabrics. They are ditching cheap synthetics (polyester, nylon, spandex). These fibers are not grown naturally, and instead come from chemicals and polymers.”5 https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2019/10/07/why-sustainable-fashion-matters/#4dc43c71b8e9
And as sustainable fashion rises, we’re seeing more and more fast fashion retailers close stores, doors, and file bankruptcy papers. (See above)
And, if you need more evidence that sustainable fashion is A Thing, for now and evermore, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, championed the movement on her most recent visit to Africa.6 https://www.marieclaire.com/celebrity/a29378965/meghan-markle-message-sustainable-fashion-royal-tour-africa/
Well if Meghan Markle is a fan….
Right, right. But even if she wasn’t, there are other reasons consumers and fashion retailers and suppliers will be embracing the sustainable fashion movement. It’s better for the earth, it’s better for humans and animals, it lasts longer…the list goes on.
So this is really A Thing, huh? That seems…
At odds with the fashion industry as a whole? You’re not wrong. “Fashion’s job,” writes Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, “is to goad you into wanting, needing more.”7 https://www.washing She goes on to say that industry is working sustainability into its business models, seeking to reduce their carbon footprints, reduce water consumption, preserve raw materials and improve waste management. Some brands are shifting to biodegradable packaging.
Will this make fashion more expensive? Because I don’t have a lot of cash to burn, yet I do enjoy a trendy outfit.
Often, yes, buying sustainable fashion pieces will mean forking over more (way more, in some cases) than what you were paying for fast-fashion pieces. But you know how people always talk about buying “investment” pieces? Ones that you love and will be with you for a long time? The same (sort of) idea is at play here—when you buy sustainable fashion, you’re not only investing in clothing pieces that will stay with you beyond this season, next season, and the seven seasons after that, but it’s an investment in the sense that you’re investing in the product from its start to finish, and that brand’s overall commitment to the planet. They’re producing these pieces in a sustainable and ethical way, and they’re paying people a fair wage to do so.8 https://www.bustle.com/p/what-is-sustainable-fashion-why-is-it-so-expensive-heres-what-experts-have-to-say-79636
But you’re not wrong, sustainable fashion can be prohibitively expensive. And you’re in luck—there are several clothing suppliers out there who are already supplying eco-friendly fashion at wallet-friendly prices. And I suspect that as the sustainable fashion movement picks up speed, more retailers will get on board, and you’ll be back in slip dresses and oversized belts in no time.
OMG, that is so 2006.