May 19, 2021
A Crash Course in Fashion Supply Chains

As consumers we have the power to demand a transparent supply chain and vote with our dollars by supporting brands that allow us to see the actions they are implementing to reduce the environmental impact, but more importantly consciously working towards the end of dangerous working conditions for garment workers, fair wages, and an end to exploitation in the fashion industry.

“Demand quality not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.” —Orsola de Castro

Many of us are familiar with the general concept of what a supply chain is, but it can get pretty blurry and complicated to follow.

There is one step we are all very familiar with, and that is the point in which we purchase and are handed over the completed product.

It's so important to remember that the completed product came with many consequences that are far reaching involving, precious resources and the livelihoods of many people.

When it comes to the fashion industry, the clothing supply chain is made up of various links that connect the raw materials used to produce a garment, the factories that are utilized in order to transform materials into garments, and the distribution process to deliver finished pieces to the consumers.

As consumers we have the power to demand a transparent supply chain and vote with our dollars by supporting brands that allow us to see the actions they are implementing to reduce the environmental impact, but more importantly consciously working towards the end of dangerous working conditions for garment workers, fair wages, and an end to exploitation in the fashion industry.

Let's take a closer look and break down the clothing supply chain and compare FAST FASHION vs. a SLOW/ SUSTAINABLE!

THE DESIGNING STAGE:

During this stage the brand is considering what colors, fabrics, silhouettes, and the small details for what they are producing.
The Fast Fashion Design Stage:

Fast Fashion Brands are researching what is "trending" today, design with the intention to overproduce, and for the items to not last longer than a season.

What's wrong with this business model?

Fast Fashion is catalyzing consumers to purchase, wear, and discard of pieces that are no longer "new" or "trending". The effect of this consumer behavior takes a toll on the environment because an overwhelming 84% of clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators.

The Slow Fashion Design Stage:

Slow Fashion takes the opposite approach during this stage and considers the materials, the production process, and the consumers use of the garment in order to reduce the negative environmental impact and ensure the quality of life of the hands who create the clothing.

Material Production and Sourcing:

This phase is complex and entails growing, creating the materials, dyeing, weaving or spinning raw textiles into fabric. Textile production is one of the biggest contributors to the environmental pollution. The Textile industry has a high greenhouse gas emission and plays a huge part in the contamination of air and water supplies.

The Fast Fashion Material Production and Sourcing Stage:

Fast Fashion brands are looking for materials in large quantities, not necessarily paying attention to where or how it is sourced or what harm it causes to the earth's resources. Fast Fashion has one goal in mind and that is to mass produce garments which results in overproduction.

What's wrong with this process?

Textile mills are responsible for one-fifth of industrial water pollution globally, and when it takes 2,700 liters to create just one t-shirt, fast fashion is sucking the earth's resources in developing countries where they are not able to keep up with the environmental effects. In addition, the textile industry is filled with working conditions that do not meet the labor laws, child labor, and modern slavery.

The Slow Fashion Material Production and Sourcing Stage:

Slow Fashion takes quite a different approach when selecting and sourcing material. Sustainable fashion brands are more intentional and mindful of the amount of garments they'd like to produce, where they are acquiring their materials and look closely into ensuring the garment workers are safe and paid a living wage.

The Clothing Production Stage:

During this stage the magic happens! The brands vision comes together based off of style, fabrics, and quantity.

The Fast Fashion Production Stage:

Many Fast Fashion brands only care about the bottom line, profit. They outsource the labor to developing countries for cheap labor.

What is wrong with this?

Garment workers are at high risk of exploitation, working long hours for very little pay, and in dangerous work environments. The majority of these garment workers are female and are not compensated equally, are many times sexually assaulted, and are not permitted maternity leave.

The Slow Fashion Production Stage:

Slow Fashion Brands are transparent in every step of their supply chain and give consumers a close look into who is producing their clothing and being mindful of what factories they choose to produce their garments.

The Distribution and Retail Stage:

After products have been completed they are now ready to be shipped and delivered to retailers and consumers. Many brands outsource for production and manufacturing which means there is a ton of transportation involved which can lead to environmental pollution.

The Fast Fashion Distribution and Retail Stage:

There is inevitably an environmental impact during this stage. Fast Fashion brands will likely be shipping from overseas, resulting in an increase of the transportation time and impact on the environment.

The Slow Fashion Distribution and Retail Stage:

Many sustainable fashion brands will make an effort to offset carbon emissions and find solutions that are mindful of people and planet.

So, you're probably wondering,

"how can a clothing supply chain be sustainable?"

Brands who make an effort to be ethical and sustainable in different ways alongside the entire supply chain are able to make a big impact with their efforts. No brand will every do this perfectly, but the small efforts and the intentional pursuit to cause less harm to people and planet creates demand for sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry.

Fast fashion brands will look away from the supply chain until they reach the final steps in order to avoid being aware of malpractices and unethical working conditions.

The biggest change starts with US as CONSUMERS.

Brands should be held to the responsibility of being transparent, choosing suppliers who treat their workers with respect, pay a living wage, and make an effort to protect the environment.

We as consumers have a responsibility to choose brands who care about all of these things and are looking to make a positive impact in the fashion industry.

We have to collectively demand for industry to change and together we can make a difference.

Together we can make a difference!

-Love the reFIND Team

Read more
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