The global fashion industry is dominated by massive entities. According to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index, the leading 20 companies in the fashion industry account for 97% of the profits. Inditex (Zara), Adidas, Nike, LVMH (Louis Vuitton/Dior), H&M, etc, top this list of elites, bringing in massive profits each year.
Models of quick turnaround, multiple season, cheap materials and labor outsourcing through the supply chain has seen these companies dominate the global market. A 2015 research case on Inditex-Zara’s Brazil supply chain found workers in São Paulo under conditions akin to slavery. With growing middle-classes across the globe, garment production increased 400% from 1994 to 2014 to 80 billion garments per year, indicative of these titans’ continued success.
The production of fashion presents challenges across the globe, specifically to developing countries with loose regulations and an absence of enforcement for workers’ rights. In addition, few recycling or efficient life-cycle techniques are employed through the fast fashion model. Emphasis is placed on fast, cheap, and trendy products. As a result, 85% of garments are thrown into landfills; some never having been worn once.
Where, what, and how much these leaders of industry consume in order to meet their demands is paramount in understanding the footprint that looms over the industry.
Why does it matter?
The storefronts at the mall, department stores, the inventories found within— all come from and end up somewhere. Having a cognitive eye towards the major players and the production techniques involved in dressing the world benefits you, the planet and your children. Everybody wears clothes. Exploring the reality of the present fashion industry equips you to change that reality through your actions as a consumer.
Shopping second hand, lending, borrowing, donating, buying from companies practicing sustainable production and cherishing things we already have are all steps that the consumer can take today; regardless of the industry. These actions have the potential to shape and change the market; into one that values the limited resources of the planet and champions human well-being.
How can the industry improve its fragmented global supply chain?
Campos, André. “From Moral Responsibility To Legal Liability? Modern Day Slavery Conditions In The Global Garment Supply Chain And The Need To Strengthen Regulatory Frameworks: The Case Of Inditex-Zara In Brazil”. Researchgate.Net, 2015.
Palm, C., Cornell, S.E. & Häyhä, T. Making Resilient Decisions for Sustainable Circularity of Fashion. Circ.Econ.Sust. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43615-021-00040-1
Strähle J., Hauk K. (2017) Impact on Sustainability: Production Versus Consumption. In: Strähle J. (eds) Green Fashion Retail. Springer Series in Fashion Business. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-2440-5_4
TED-Ed. The Life Cycle Of A T-Shirt. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiSYoeqb_VY&list=PLoBqH-BiTvE0QkGItsihhkP7AaCFDJP0c&index=2&t=0s. Accessed 14 Aug 2020.
“Textiles: Material-Specific Data | US EPA”. US EPA, 2017, https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data.