As I checked my Instagram feed on the 9th of January – the only image trending was H&M’s monkey hoodie. There was so much attention and backlash given to the wrong choice of child, caption and message that it was a recipe for disaster from the beginning – inevitably partially destroying the brands image. Then H&M announced they were closing 170 stores around the world and it is most definitely the result of a series of controversy rising from PR campaigns and reportedly sitting on more than 1 million tonnes of waste and scrap clothing. Could this be the beginning of the fall of fast fashion brands? And are we finally tipping the focus from quantity to quality in a £29.7 billion industry?
In 2014 I started working for a small e-commerce boutique Fashion Compassion – it was around this time the fashion industry was at the peak of the rise of fast fashion with H&M leading the way and stores such as Primark was at an all time high for design plagiarism. The fashion industry was finally realising the immediate result of their influence on the consumers who want to buy fashion and how this was affecting the artisans, communities and waste production.
While the world was consumed with buying the latest copy of runway trending apparel – FC sold sustainably made handbags made from around the globe and giving the proceeds back to the communities and artisans who made them to help build their community. Mostly, the materials used to make the bags are sourced from local communities helping them to become more sustainable and self-sufficient. The problem was, not many people were aware of the great work and quality fashion that FC were providing. And the reason may be that, the bags weren’t replicas or similar to the bags on major designer runways – however they are beautifully crafted designs, made with a purpose and cause – I constantly wondered why it wasn’t more popular or common for consumers to lean towards these types of brands.
But hasn’t Stella McCartney been showing us how to do luxury with sustainable fashion this the whole time? Slow fashion has and is being advocated by the likes of Livia firth, Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gigi Hadid and other celebrities who all support sustainable brands and pushing for fashion which supports artisans, the Earth and communities. The Green Carpet movement initiated by Livia Firth is a major movement at the annual Met Gala where celebs are challenged to wear sustainable and ethical red carpet dresses. It may just bring more awareness and commercialising of the concept of sustainable fashion – on a more urgent basis.
In 2016 ZARA reportedly dropped profits by one-third from £58.3m to £39.2m and 17 stores were sold in Spain and Portugal. While this year H&M is under scrutiny and talks of closing down it’s stores as well. Since 2017 there have been a number of high-street brands that have lost profits in sales or suffered controversial publicity in marketing and PR campaigns – whether it be racial insensitivity or the radical demand of the depletion of the Earth’s resources or the tonnes of waste produced by fast fashion.
And this just could the break through that the industry needs to focus on a more quality vs. quantity shift in fashion in the future. More consumers now question the transparency of the brands and whether they really want to buy into brands that are churning out clothes and paying factory workers and artisans lower than minimum wage. Barely enough to feed their families while fast fashion brands take away profits worth millions. The more we see fast fashion brands undergo a transparency change in their supply change, the more irregularities rise to the surface in how fast fashion brands affect on a worldwide scale.