Students and local business owners are acting on their concerns about fast fashion brands by seeking creative, sustainable alternatives.
Fast fashion brands respond to changing trends by rapidly producing cheaply made clothing that is intended for short-time wear before being discarded. Leading fast fashion companies include Intidex (parent company of Zara), Fast Retailing (parent company of UNIQLO), H&M and Gap, the first through fourth largest apparel companies in the world.
Fifty-two percent of 2,000 American and British survey respondents in 2019 said they want the fashion industry to become more sustainable, according to Nosto Solutions, an e-commerce personalization platform. Of respondents, 32% said they would pay more for items from a brand that is committed to sustainability.
Cassidy Bayliss, a freshman majoring in apparel merchandising and product development, said she chooses to shop sustainably to reduce her carbon footprint.
Bayliss thinks the mainstream fashion industry contributes heavily to pollution and even harsher living conditions, she said.
The apparel industry is responsible for 10% percent of global carbon emissions, and 21 billion tons of clothing products are sent to landfills each year, according to the U.N.
Bayliss said she likes to shop locally at thrift shops or online resale markets like Poshmark and Depop.
“I love thrifting because it is truly a treasure hunt,” Bayliss said. “I’ve found some of the most amazing pieces for an even better price.”
Daphne Scott, owner of Fayetteville clothing boutique Greenrose Ethical Outfitters, hopes to provide an outlet for consumers to avoid fast fashion by stocking her store with sustainably sourced clothing from classic t-shirts to floral crop-tops.
Lance Cheramie, an apparel merchandising and product development professor, said fast fashion production techniques often result in clothes that are cheaper for the consumer but worse for the environment.
“Retailers often cut costs that eventually result in an increase in their carbon footprint,” Cheramie said .
For example, a pair of small-batch, toxin-free organic cotton lounge shorts costs $88 at Greenrose, while a similar pair at H&M produced through fast fashion methods costs $14.99.
In her early days working in retail, Scott thought large fashion corporations didn't do enough to protect the environment, so she decided to start her own apparel business, she said. Scott opened her online store in October 2018 and the physical Greenrose location on Block Avenue in January 2020.
“When you work in retail, you represent the company you work for,” Scott said. “I wanted to work for a company I could stand by and be proud of.”
Scott said she only sells clothes made by companies that use completely or partly sustainable production methods, such as Kivari and MATE the Label. These companies produce their clothing in small batches with non-toxic dyes and durable, well-stitched synthetics or natural fabrics like fair trade cotton.
Scott works to avoid waste, which she thinks is a problem in the fashion industry, and encourages consumers to use less, dispose of less, be conscious of their clothes and inform themselves about sustainable fashion, she said.
“Everything in sustainability is circular,” Scott said. “If it comes from the earth and goes back into the earth, that’s a win.”
Cheramie said an environmentally friendly alternative to mainstream clothing brands is slow fashion.
Slow fashion is the production of fewer clothes per year using higher-quality materials in order to move away from excessive consumerism encouraged by the fast fashion industry, according to New Dress Code, a European sustainable fashion company.
“Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming, and living better,” Cheramie said.
Chermamie said he thinks fashion companies should ensure efficient and careful use of natural resources, select renewable energy sources at every stage and reduce, reuse and recycle excess products.
Kyla Sayre, a junior majoring in apparel merchandising and product development, said she shops locally and invests in slow fashion because she strives to support stores that make the smallest possible environmental impact.
“I first started shopping sustainably when I learned in class how much the apparel production industry was affecting our environment,” Sayre said. “This knowledge taught me to shop for brands who stand for the sustainability movement.”
Sayre hopes all fashion companies will move towards sustainable merchandise in the near future, she said.