Solutions to Fast Fashion in the Outdoor Industry

Solutions to Fast Fashion in the Outdoor Industry

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a practice that involves mass-producing clothing at low prices, which allows it to be sold, distributed, and thrown out quicker than other goods or apparel. The practice has been around since the 1980s, and now just 2% of clothing sold in the U.S. is produced here, according to this article by TreeHugger. 

As large textile mills and factories began growing overseas, American shoppers and retailers had a cheaper option for producing and consuming goods. Many companies now offer customers thousands of trendy styles, which may be gone in days, weeks, or months only to be replaced by new, low-cost options. 

In the outdoor industry, athleisure attire like leggings, tops, and undergarments can be produced this way.

Though low-cost materials mean products can sell at bargain prices and even reach new markets, fast fashion comes with a catch. As a result, the practice has been criticized for many reasons. 

Here are some of the biggest downfalls:

  • Ethical issues. There are red flags about how some fast fashion companies treat workers, especially when sweatshops are used for cheap production. These include exposing people to dangerous health and air conditions, a lack of regulation, and other human rights concerns. 
  • Excessive Consumption. The constant availability and production of styles lead to many items that are bought and never even worn. It can also create a sense of wanting more and more as people await cheaper and faster products that outsell what came before.
  • Environmental Harm. This is by far the most prominent concern of fast fashion due to the processes needed to create and produce items quickly. A few effects include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions (from factories, shipping, sourcing materials, etc.)
  • Excessive water use and wastewater creation
  • The release of plastic microfibers and other toxic materials
  • Pollution
  • Waste, as more clothing ends up in landfills

There are plenty of other consequences, which you can keep reading about in this Princeton article.

Fast Fashion Solutions for Outdoor Brands

Now that we've reviewed the potential harm let's check out some solutions to fast fashion.

Audit Your Outdoor Brand

The first step to finding an alternative to fast fashion is understanding every stage in your brand's production process, from manufacturing to consumption. First, consider how much of your revenue and costs come from fast fashion if this is a practice you may rely on. An outdoor brand with a business model built on fast fashion will have a different challenge to tackle than a brand with a few supplementary apparel items. 

Next, it's also important to analyze everything from your brand's materials to the packaging and distribution methods. If your outdoor brand produces pieces with sustainability in mind and isn't consistently rolling out new, low-cost options, you're likely in a good spot. Regardless, it's important to identify weaknesses or areas of improvement in your strategies, which is where our next point comes in for applying a fast fashion solution.

Give Used Products a New Life

One great way to capitalize on the ease of shipping goods while preventing fast fashion is to introduce recycling programs. Ways for customers to send in gently used clothing or returns that may otherwise be discarded is a great way to offer new products to customers at different price points. 

While this takes judgment and a quality control process, of course, recycling programs can be great for re-selling or revamping gently worn products. If you don't want to deal with re-sale, you could even offer an incentive or discount to customers who send in products, and repurpose the items as raw materials in new products.

One example we love comes from Tera Kaia, a women-run outdoor apparel company that takes sustainability seriously. With the basewear repair service, customers can send in Tera Kaia's signature undergarments with everyday wear and tear for alterations at a small fee. Customers can select what adjustments are needed, whether it's a popped seam or replacing an entire area of stretched fabric, and choose between a creative or traditional style. This strategy brings new meaning to recycled products by giving them a fresh uplift, and it's one for the books. 

Provide Educational Resources 

Maybe your outdoor brand isn't in the position to completely re-haul your apparel, or maybe you're even trapped in a contract with specific retailers or manufacturers. That's okay! One of the first ways to combat fast fashion is education, which also happens to be one of the best forms of branded content. 

Consider ways that you can educate both yourself and consumers about how products are made and whether certain options are more sustainable than others (for example, opting for ground shipping instead of express, which also tends to be cheaper). 

You don't need to make customers feel bad about their choices or even lose out on sales. Just be transparent and highlight sustainable choices that the company has made or that consumers have the choice to make. This also makes it easier for customers to recognize when other brands are guilty of fast fashion practices. 

Additionally, continue to educate yourself and actively select ways to incorporate sustainability into your brand's processes. 

Connect with your Local Community

The biggest impact of fast fashion comes from the production and distribution of products across the world, which often end up in a landfill. A great alternative to fast fashion is considering how you can connect with your local community. This could be anything from hosting and supporting local clothing drives to partnering with local businesses or organizations during the production and manufacturing process to even hosting a cleanup. Ultimately, shortening the distance that your products have to travel can play a huge role in reducing harmful emissions.

Aside from the importance of protecting the environment, opting for fast fashion alternatives can also pay off in the eyes of your customers. As we covered in a recent article about 2023 athleisure trends, sustainability isn't going out of style any time soon – it can even be a deciding factor for shoppers! After reading this, we hope you have a strong understanding of how to prevent fast fashion in the outdoor industry and some great alternatives to explore.

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