Term Paper: Consumers Attitudes Towards the Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion Speed

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Consumers' Attitudes towards the Environmental impact of Fast Fashion

Attitudes towards the environmental impact of Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion and the environment

Customer awareness

The issue of fast or quick fashion and the impact that this phenomenon has on the environment, as well as consumer reaction, has gradually attracted attention from environmentalists, fashion commentators and the general public in recent years. As an article on the growth of the Fast Fashion industry by Hickman (2006) states, "Growing demand for cheap clothes is putting an increasing social and environmental strain on the world." (Hickman) the author refers to a recent report that "...questions the very sustainability of the "fast fashion" that is growing in popularity among...shoppers." (Hickman) in essence this report has found that, in one of the few academic analysis of the subject, the intense consumerism that is an intrinsic part of the flash fashion industry,"...comes at a heavy cost to factory workers and the environment from intensive use of chemicals and greenhouse gases" (Hickman).

Hickman's article refers to a study entitled, Well Dressed by Cambridge University's Institute for Manufacturing, which traces the impact of garments from the cotton fields of the U.S. To the sweatshops of China. (Hickman) This study and others raise questions and issues that will inform this dissertation. It refers pertinently to the environmental concern that the growth of Fast Fashion has engendered.

Another aspect that will form a central locus of the present study is the way that consumers have reacted and responded to reports of this nature and the growing awareness of the various ways that Fast Fashion can and does affect the environment.

It goes almost without saying that environmental issues and concerns have become a dominant and pervasive part of contemporary consciousness.

The media and scientific reportage and studies on the affect of climate change and global warming and the unrestrained emission of CO2 into the environment have become headline news in the past few years. The issue of Fast Fashion and the fact that the increased consumerism and success of this industry creates pollution and increases emissions into the atmosphere adds to the reality of climate and environmental decline in the world. Therefore, the study of the consequences and effects of Fast Fashion for an environmental perspective is an important part of the modern trajectory of attention and focus on the environment. Therefore, the issue of Fast Fashion will be examined within this context and with particular emphasis on the way that consumers have become more aware of the environmental aspects relating to modern fashion trends.

In general terms 'fast fashion' refers to the modern tendency towards cheap and more accessible clothing and fashion. As one report states, "Not so long ago, the notion of buying clothes from a supermarket was seen as distinctly downmarket. Now, it seems, most women are happy to pile bikinis, T-shirts, gipsy skirts and jeans on top of the baked beans" (Poulter 2005). One study has found that that the percentage of individuals who buy clothing and fashion from supermarkets has increased in developed countries like the United Kingdom from 60 to 73% a single year. (Poulter 2005) This is reflected in figures of cheaper and bargain fashions from retail chains such as Primark. Many other reports and studies reiterate these findings, which attest to the growth and increasing popularity of the Fast Fashion industry.

Central to this phenomenon is that fact that the clothing on offer is relatively cheap, which is a cardinal factor in the patterns of consumerism and the relatively high quantities of clothing that are purchased. As a report from the UK states, "Lower prices have meant that consumers are starting to buy more clothes, more frequently High street stores used to stock just two collections a year - Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer - but now they are more likely to have something new every month" (Cheap Fashion, Fast Fashion)

However, the literature on this topic also refers to the number of recent studies and reports that suggest that there is an altered and more concerned awareness among both retailers and consumers of the fact that there is a rather high price to pay for cheap fashion. The high price is the impact that Fast Fashion is having on the environment. There are an increasing number of reports which intimate that the high levels of consumerism and the subsequent large quantities of clothing being produced have some very real negative effects in terms of environmental balances and pollution levels. This study will explore these assertions and findings in-depth.

An example of this increased level of concern among consumers can be gleaned from the following statement: "Shoppers are advised to lessen their environmental footprint by buying organic cotton and fewer but better garments, washing them at lower temperatures and drying them naturally." (Hickman) There is therefore, in some areas, an increased awareness of methods and ways of reversing and ameliorating the impact that the availability of fast and quick fashion can have on an already stressed and precarious world climate and environment.

On the other hand it is also true that many consumers simply are not aware or do not care about the negative environmental effects that excessive amounts of discarded clothing and production is having on the environment. It will therefore also be a central concern of this study to establish through various methodologies, the extent to which concern for the environmental impact of Fast Fashion has filtered down and is reflected in consumer awareness. These findings can also be extrapolated and developed into a more comprehensive overview and understanding of the situation.

Another fact that should be noted at the outset is the relative paucity of research and study on this topic. The understanding of the actual and potential impact of Fast Fashion on the environment is a rather new and unexplored area of analysis. This is particularly the case with regard to the relative lack of academic and intensive scientific studies. This view is supported by studies such as a paper delivered by Annu Markkula at the Proceedings of the Nordic Consumer Policy Research Conference 2007. She states that, "Sustainable consumption related to fashion and clothing has not yet received systematic research attention." (Markkula) Markkula also suggests that, "Current fashion consumption practices need to be reformed, but also governments and companies need to contribute to advancing more sustainable life styles" (Markkula). Therefore, it is part of the aim of this dissertation to add to research on this area of concern.

Definitions

The Fast Fashion industry has already been described above as a cheap and easily accessible product that can be purchased at outlets such as supermarkets. In general, the term Fast Fashion is described as follows.

Where high street stores used to change their collections twice a year, the pressure is now on to have something new in store every month. Today's 'fast fashion' machine can churn out styles just six weeks after they appear on the catwalk. This trend has been made possible by the expansion of high street, low value retailers such as Primark and Matalan, and the growth of the supermarket clothing sector led by Tesco and Asda-Walmart, which sell clothing at around half the cost of the high street average. According to a recent report by the campaigning group Labour Behind the Label, one foul items of clothing bought in the UK comes from these four stores.

FAST FASHION)

Therefore, a more comprehensive understanding of Fast Fashion includes the fact that Fast Fashion has become immensely popular among consumers and that it has entered into the mainstream of contemporary awareness. This means that Fast Fashion is being fueled by the "... demand of fashion magazines that help create the desire for new "must-haves" for each season. Girls especially are insatiable when it comes to fashion. They have to have the latest thing, always. And since it is cheap, you buy more of it. Our closets are full..." (Luz).

Fast Fashion is being driven by many factors, including its acceptance among the youth and the fashion conscious. This understanding of the relationship between the consumer and Fast Fashion leads inexorably to the fact that Fast Fashion is by definition more disposable than " high " or expensive fashion or clothing. This makes it more of a problem in terms of aspect like pollution.

An important aspect in understanding this phenomenon in the context of environmental factors and theory is the issue of sustainability. Sustainability is defined as follows. "Based on the definition of World Commission (1987), sustainable consumption has been agreed to mean meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of the future ones" (Markkula).

While the issue of sustainability refers to many facets, it also refers to the environment and environmental concerns that can affect human survival.

1.3. Fast Fashion and the environment

The impact of Fast Fashion can have on the environment, and particularly on the delicate and precarious aspects of climate change and global warming, has already been briefly alluded to. There… [END OF PREVIEW]

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