The fashion industry has for the most part since its inception during the late 19th century helped signal a sense of individuality for consumers across the world. From designer fashion houses operated by single designers, to the behemoth commercial retail stores that are now scattered in towns and major cities nearly everywhere – fashion has remained a pinnacle of creativity and innovation.
But as the industry pursued efforts in support of globalization, which popular brands taking up space on every busy street corner, and with the advent of the internet that helps celebrate the adoption of eCommerce and online shopping; the fashion industry has taken a turn in a different direction - and it’s contributing to the growing problem concerning global warming.
A paper published by Princeton revealed the dangerous and seemingly unethical side that the fashion industry has ignored for decades. The paper indicates that garment manufacturers consume at least one-tenth of all freshwater used industrially; that’s around 10,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton or 3,000 liters per single cotton shirt.
Supplementary research found that synthetic materials produced that are used in the manufacturing of selected garments contain more than 35% of microplastics and on average release more carbon emissions than the production of cotton.
Historically, garments were made from natural materials such as wool or cotton, but that has all changed since the adoption of synthetic materials such as polyester helps lower cost and production time.
As supply and demand rise and consumer novelty around fast fashion soars with the aid of social media and online shopping - one company has set out to make fast fashion a thing of the past, and bring new meaning to previously used designer labels.
Fast Fashion Lacks Luxury and Quality
In a recent attempt, some companies have gone as far as to change their business models which allows for more sustainable fashion efforts. Resellers of premium clothing brands and eCommerce platforms such as CODOGIRL, among others are now making luxury garments more accessible to buyers and consumers
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CODOGIRL was founded by Yulia and Andrey Omelich, who has been on a mission to reduce carbon emissions caused by the fashion industry.
Companies are perhaps now more focused on promoting sustainable fashion, offering eco-friendly transparency about their practices. But although this might help add new meaning to resolving the issue, it doesn’t quite solve it.
The concept behind platforms such as CODOGIRL is that previously designer items and garments can be resold on the market at a more affordable price, while still offering authentic value. This ensures that items remain purposeful, mitigating the chances for it to end in landfills.
So what makes designer brands so much better?
In contrast to popular belief, several articles have been researched and published that examined the main difference between high-end brands, and those that can easily be purchased in a commercial retail outlet or big box store.
In a 2018 HuffPost article, fashion reporter Julia Brucculieri investigated manufacturers and designers on one specific item - the plain white T-shirt. Her investigation led to the following conclusion.
Designer garments, in this case, the plain white T-Shirt are widely different from that of cheaper brands in several categories including, material grade and variety thereof, material brand, processing, and sustainability. Other contributing factors such as distribution and marketing also draw an impact on the final price, but to summarize, designer labels simply offer better overall quality.
For expensive and high-quality garments to remain on the market longer than its initial shelf life, or wearing cycle, premium resellers need to reach a wider audience and market to ensure that luxury garments aren’t tossed aside once trends start to change throughout the season.
To break this stereotype, CODOGIRL states that: “When we resell vintage designer bags and refashion vintage garments, we bring to life what would otherwise have ended up in landfills. We only use the finest pre-existing material to accent our refashioned pieces. What we do is a new definition of “Brand New.”
Breaking the cycle from production to purchase to the landfill can help mitigate the impact consumer habits and the fashion industry at the final leg of the process have on the environment. It’s proving well-worth, and younger consumers are starting to catch on to the trend.
The Lifespan Of Clothing
A research study from 2020, surveyed consumers in what researchers dubbed the ‘Wardrobe Study.’ The study was aimed at measuring the average lifespan of clothing purchased by individuals, and included looking at the time it was purchased in years, the number of cleaning cycles, the number of users, and the textile which it is produced from.
Their findings revealed that roughly 2% of surveyed consumers will never wear an item again, whereas 17% and 18% of consumers will wear an item 10 to 19 and 20 to 49 times again, respectively. Only 4% of surveyed consumers stated they will be able to wear a specific item more than 200 times in the near future.
With this in mind, we can consider how consumers are purchasing for the short-term end of fashion, rather than looking to keep an item over an extended period of time.
The Giving Fashion Blog makes more sense of this through their analysis, which explains how a $30 dress would most likely survive an average lifespan of three years if it’s only worn five times. On the other hand, a more expensive garment or dress would last on average 5.4 years longer and can sustain 30 wears during its lifetime.
Premium reseller platforms and digital commerce spaces have been trying to pursue a new trend in the fashion industry, allowing consumers to repurpose designer labels, and high-end quality garment pieces without sacrificing the environment and their wallets while doing so.
“Our customers are offered an opportunity to save money and look amazing without further harming our environment and using our planet’s resources. We at CODOGIRL believe that fashion consumers should make the sustainable fashion choice and reduce their consumption and dependence on fast-fashion polluters.”
But major eCommerce giants such as Shein, Boohoo.com, and other leading commercial fashion brands are making it difficult for consumers to truly see the impact their habits, and desire to remain in trend is having on the environment, and more recently, the laborer producing these garments.
Fast Fashion Retailers on The Stock Market
Being a big name in the fast fashion industry is one thing for major garment and apparel brands, as consumer spending habits, seasonal trends and the rise of eCommerce places itself at the core of the industry’s financial monopoly.
But while consumers are able to access goods, and various products through online shops or retail outlets, a majority of these leading brands are dominating the fashion industry through their initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market.
In 2021, it was reported that Shein made preparations to undergo a $47 billion IPO. While this turned out to be untrue, other global fashion brands such as Poshmark (NASDAQ:POSH) saw its valuation surpass $7 billion as shares traded increased 142% on the first day of trading. Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) has seen share prices soar by more than 634.4% in the last 5 years.
These and other brands reveal the true underbelly of the fast fashion retail industry, as brands including Nike, Stitch Fix, Target and TJMaxx are all on par to become some of the best and most prominent apparel stocks currently available.
Just how popular have these brands become? Well, in April 2022, TJMaxx (NYSE:TJX) outperformed the S&P 500 in single day trading, as TJX rose by 1.57% with the index falling by 0.34%. Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ:ROST) also climbed by 2.49% the same day, with share prices climbing above $102 per share.
Fast fashion brands are not leaving the stock market or consumer market untouched for that matter, and the situation is only growing more severe with each passing generation.
A recent CNBC article found that teens in the United States are spending on average 9% more on well-known retail brands compared to spring 2021.
Consumer spending, and especially coming from younger generations aren’t holding back share prices as well. As consumer habits improve, and economic recovery starts to take shape, investors are becoming ever so eager to see how garment shares are able to outperform market predictions.
It’s quite easy to notice how these brands are hammering forward, as more of them are penning down positive trading days, and consumer spending tick upward.
There’s Life After Disposal
Nevertheless, CODOGIRL presents itself with an opportunity to make an actual and viable difference that can be recognized by its supporters.
As of April 2021, the CODOGIRL platform was able to receive recognition from the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC). This meant that the CODOGIRL team is now part of the ongoing Signatory of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action which aims to reduce the carbon footprint caused by prolonged fast fashion consumption.
As major fast fashion brands churn out thousands of trendy garments each season, and consumers still unknowingly support brands without having access to brand sustainability transparency, designer brands, while at a high price remain a smarter, economical, and sustainable solution to a growing problem.
For us to fully make an impact, it takes deliberate change and awareness. While luxury designer labels are easily priced above the average shoppers' expected purchasing price, platforms now exist that allow for easier access to a more affordable and sustainable lifestyle.
Digital commerce is now making it possible for luxury garments and fashion items to have a new purpose, as its life cycle can be extended through the means of reselling and repurposing. Further innovation and investment in such platforms are allowing new life to the clothing industry, helping find innovative ways companies can reduce carbon emissions, landfill waste, and slow down on production.