Fast fashion has no place in a sustainable future

This past Sunday, fast-fashion retailer giant Forever 21 announced that it would file for bankruptcy amid a decrease in revenue and loss of its loyal customer base. The company will put a stop to its operations in 40 countries and close the doors on 350 of its stores around the world. 

This signifies the end of the Los Angeles-based brand’s era of consumers buying into its fast-fashion landscape, which impacted the trajectory of the fashion industry. This hardly comes as a surprise, as online retailers have been rapidly rising in popularity over the years, while mall traffic has been on the decrease. 

Forever 21 has lost a lot of its integrity in the years leading up to the bankruptcy file. It has tackled a trademark infringement lawsuit filed from designer brand Gucci and a lawsuit from pop star Ariana Grande about copyright infringement and false endorsement due to a look-alike advertising campaign.

The dissatisfaction from customers for its overly broad target market was also a major factor leading to its descent.

The company’s bankruptcy speaks to the shift in consumer mindset that the American population is undergoing. While this is a step in the right direction for consumers to break away from egregious spending and buying habits, fast fashion retailers are continuing to hurt both wallets and the environment. 

The sooner they step away from the lure of outdated retail business models from the likes of H&M and Uniqlo, the better. 

In a sense, Forever 21 has lost its place in the fashion industry. Brands that fall under the same category should follow suit to make way for the onset of slow fashion. 

There’s a reason why in this day and age, Marie Kondo’s minimalistic philosophy is making a lasting impact, and thrift stores seem to be thriving more than ever in sales and traffic. Customers have reached their tipping point when it comes to buying disposable fast-fashion products.

While Forever 21 is one of the only retailers that has felt the major effects of customers’ loss of interest, other brands such as H&M, Zara and Topshop have made their share of missteps as global fast-fashion stores. 

These fast-fashion retailers caught on to the growing trend in sustainable shopping and have used it to their advantage through their marketing methods. 

H&M caters to their environmentally-savvy customers through their sustainability updates published by H&M Group. Yet, reports from Bloomberg have shown that H&M takes part in the common practice of incinerating unused clothing or dumping it in landfills in third-world countries. 

On a global scale, nearly three-fifths of clothing produced either gets hauled to incinerators or landfills to be disposed of after a year that they are made, according to reports from McKinsey and Qantis. 

Customers should keep this in mind next time they wander through their nearest Zara location or bring bags full of clothing to H&M. 

This cancels out the positive efforts made by H&M to be kind to the environment. While it contributes to the global environmental issues onset by the fashion industry, fast fashion remains one of the most polluting industries in the world. 

The negative effects of the production, distribution and disposal of fast-fashion clothing items matter more than the benefit of making cheap purchases. 

Due to the uncertainty that the future holds for fast-fashion retailers, shoppers should turn to slow fashion. In an age where many struggle with financial woes and people across the globe are taking part in protesting the issues regarding our environmental impact, slow fashion could help make things easier. 

That’s where sustainable brands make their way to customers, which means shopping at places with ethically and sustainably sourced textiles. The overall lifespan of clothing items from fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 can be far shorter than those from brands like Reformation, which sets standards for each item to use the most natural fibers and the least amount of water and energy to make its products. 

Forever 21’s bankruptcy is going to majorly affect the future of fast fashion, but it’s had its time. Customers’ shopping priorities have shifted. If the fast-fashion industry wants to keep up, so should theirs.

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