While fast fashion has been ruling the apparel retail industry in India and across the world for quite some time now, it did draw criticism from all directions as consumers started preferring sustainable fashion. Today’s consumers are more aware than before about sustainability and fashion industry’s effect on the planet, and are increasingly embracing options like eco-friendly clothing, reselling of used clothing or renting of garments that are not to be worn more than once. The world also witnessed the declaration of bankruptcy by fast fashion brand Forever 21, following which the brand is closing operations in number of countries. Does this indicate the end of fast fashion, while the world is moving towards sustainable fashion?
Here is how the experts decode the poser of sustainable fashion and fast fashion…
Nathasha Kumar, Founder & CEO, Vajor
Sustainability was a serious buzzword last year, with the use of plastic straws and coffee cups being the main topic. Sustainable fashion, however, still seems to be a niche market. It comprises clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. Recycled materials, organic cotton or ‘farm to yarn’ processes are becoming more common than before. Future of sustainability seems to be more as a necessity rather than just a trend. Wherein fast fashion focuses on speed and low costs in order to create frequent and new collections inspired by the latest celebrity styles and trends. Currently, up to 85 per cent of textiles are ending up in landfills or are being incinerated when most of the materials could have been recycled and reused.
Puneet and Yatin Jain, Directors, Odhni
Fast fashion is a herd mentality that is changing rapidly as people are more interested in discovering their very own and unique personalities. The present generation of fashion-conscious people believe in bespoke solutions that cannot be attained by the borrowed ideas or concepts of fast fashion. Based on trends in fashion shows, designs and styles in fast fashion hardly last for long and even look eccentric after some time. On the other hand, statement pieces that align perfectly with the personality of an individual look more authentic, graceful and functional. Moreover, bespoke dresses and jewellery have a longer life, and that’s why they are sustainable fashion solutions.
Wicrant Gambhir, Head of Sourcing, Jockey India
End of fast fashion is something people at niche levels have started talking about. There’s still a lot of time for it to come to the masses. For India, specifically, I would say there’s a long way to go before fast fashion fades out and the so-called slow fashion comes up in the scheme of things for people. With such high disposable income, soaring aspirations and such a high population of millennials in India, we are still not at the beginning of the end of fast fashion.
The consumers are not mindful of this fact in India yet, as every retailer and brand is still playing on the buoyancy of demand. As long as consumerism and demand grow, nobody wants to get into slow fashion which would be detrimental to their own business.
Mohit Dhanjal, Business Head – Shirting (B2C), Raymond Limited
The consumer preference-set is ever evolving. As businesses navigate in the ever evolving world, they need to continue ‘focusing on the consumer’ and the fact that consumer wants value irrespective of whether it is fast fashion or regular fashion. Now, with the focus shifting to sustainability, the concept of value has changed to encompass such sustainability sensibilities for consumers.
Also today, the customer dynamics is not about consuming as much fast fashion as they tend to lean towards the concept of sustainability. Companies are beginning to take note, in some cases attempting to transform/adapt their business models, on sustainability by a series of initiatives. With the evolving consciousness, it is important that we continue to engage with our consumers on the same so that new generations also imbibe these cultural norms.
Ayushi Gudwani, Founder & CEO, FableStreet
Fast fashion has, undoubtedly, maintained a stronghold over the apparel industry; especially in the Indian context where the price of goods in terms of value is considered first. This has been changing a bit, in select target consumers, with consumers becoming aware of the impact of fast fashion and more brands putting in efforts to make sustainable fashion. The industry, within India and globally, has started taking steps towards sustainability in fashion and its impact on the environment. However, in the Indian context, at the mass level, given the diversity in consumer diaspora and consciousness on price/cheap products, I don’t see fast fashion coming to an end anytime soon. If that were the case, a majority of deal-hunting brands on popular sites would have shut shop. At the same time, brands with sustainable fashion and value for money pricing are likely to emerge and gradually scale with time.
Kriti Tula, Creative Director and Co-owner, Doodlage
With the grand opening of Uniqlo’s first store in India at a cost of Rs. 2.2 crore just this month, it is safe to say that India is far from the end of fast fashion. The concept of fast fashion is extremely unsustainable for the environment around us. We are using too many resources to make fresh garments, buying and discarding too fast, things that just don’t simply go away. On the other hand, shutting down brands will lead to loss of jobs and have long-term impact on the economy, adding to the ongoing economic crisis. The niche for conscious consumerism is expanding but the awareness among consumers who want to make conscious choices is limited with all the green washing. On a positive note, there are many people working towards building better brands and the results will become more evident in due course. So till then try and buy less, choose well as what you throw away simply does not go away!