With the majority of the population stuck indoors and the closure of many shops, fast fashion companies are pushing sale after-sale to make up for the loss the pandemic is causing. It is a known fact that the fashion industry is quickly destroying the environment and, although people are now forced to shop less, this kind of behaviour is not allowing the industry to improve.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently calculated that the fashion industry produces roughly 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year and uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. Concerns regarding microplastics, pollution and chemical waste have also been raised in recent years.
Amongst all this, British people buy more clothes per person than any other European nation and only a limited amount of used clothing are being reused or recycled, with less than 1% of the material used to produce garments recycled into new clothing. A paper published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment explains how “the current business logic in the fashion sector is based on ever-increasing production and sales, fast manufacturing, low product quality and short product life cycles, all of which lead to unsustainable consumption, fast material throughput, substantial waste and vast environmental impacts” and highlights that “both production processes and consumption attitudes must be changed.”
A survey conducted by the British credit card company Barclaycard showed that 10% of the shoppers who took part in the study admitted to buying clothes to post to social media and then returning them. The problem is that roughly 30 to 50 per cent of those returned items never get restocked. They end up being sent back to warehouses, shredded and thrown in a landfill or incinerated.
Perhaps, this pandemic will be a chance for fashion to reboot and start over. In a world where people buy items to wear once, where sales are constant and everywhere, where clothes have lost that special and unique factor that made them exciting and desired before, could Rental Apps be the future?
“There’s absolutely no need for a single person to own as much as they do, we can instead share what we own with someone else for some time, and monetise our belongings too,” explains Eshita Kabra-Davies, By Rotation’s founder.
“I think there are two sides to the problems underpinning the fashion industry: production and consumption. On the production side, we need to reconsider fashion season and production cycles seriously - is it necessary to have so many new items produced around the year, and are there alternatives such as upcycling existing garments to create new? On the consumption side, we need to slow down and gain consciousness of what we’re buying and if we can’t just share instead,” she continues.
She founded By Rotation back in 2019 when, after a trip to India, she felt compelled to change and bring about change. “When I arrived in Rajasthan I was upset by the level of textile waste I saw everywhere,” she adds. And so, the first UK’s peer-to-peer rental App was born. Compared to other rental services, such as Rent The Runaway, By Rotation aims to build a sustainable community with its peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace.
In terms of sustainability, the company doesn’t buy in any inventory, which has allowed them to be free from any contracts or commitments during these challenging times. “Our entire team continues to work with us with no changes in work, and we continue to focus on our long-term goals. We also decided at the outset of the crisis that we should stay true to our values as a business and not push things people do not need,” she explains.
Eshita adds that the problem with many fashion brands and sustainability is that “some larger players have been greenwashing a segment of their collection which drives about 5% of revenues to tick the sustainability box while others have invested considerably in new production techniques and materials” while, some other brands will create “t-shirts being sold for a charitable cause, only to be produced in nations such as Bangladesh where textile workers are paid less than $2 a day.”
According to the Nature Reviews Earth and Environment paper, “the long-term stability of the fashion industry relies on the total abandonment of the fast-fashion model, linked to a decline in overproduction and overconsumption and a corresponding decrease in material throughput.” The paper explains that these types of transformations require international coordination and involve new mindsets being adopted at both the business and the consumer levels.
“One approach to lowering fashion’s environmental impact is to shift the system from linear to circular with the following three approaches: narrowing (efficiency), closing (recycling) and slowing (reusing). Another is to consider new business models such as renting, leasing, updating, repairing and reselling, all of which enable longer product lifetimes while simultaneously proposing a new, slower lifestyle for consumers,” it adds.
Slow fashion is, ultimately, the answer and rental apps such as By Rotation can help to achieve fashion’s end goal. Although the customer’s behaviour needs changing just as much as the fashion model does, younger generations are definitely more sensitive to the issue. They will play an essential role in shaping the future of the industry.
Courtesy of By Rotation