Fast fashion has long been synonymous with negative impact that includes low-quality products and environmentally harmful, exploitative practices.
However, recent technological advancements can help rewrite this narrative, transforming the industry into one that is efficient, sustainable, and employee-friendly. This article explores different ways in which textile technology is reinventing fast fashion, making it a surprising force for good.
High-Quality Production at Lightning Speed
The fundamental criticism against fast fashion items begins with the assumption that these are low-quality garments likely to become irrelevant quickly and find their way to landfills. The common belief is that there’s little, if any, durability testing, and cheap materials are used in the production process. Considering how the equivalent of an entire truckload of clothes reaches landfills each second, the environmental damage is clear.
Technology saves the day with the ability to produce high-quality garments quickly. Advanced textile manufacturing technologies, like the Kornit Atlas MAX, produce high-volume, high-quality jobs. New systems drastically reduced production times while maintaining and even enhancing the quality of garments.
Using emerging tech in design and production processes ensures precision and minimizes material waste. For instance, Adidas’ partnership with Carbon 3D to create custom, 3D-printed soles for shoes is an excellent example of how precision technology can lead to high-quality, personalized products at scale. High-quality items are also long-lasting and durable, reducing the risk of them becoming unusable after a short period.
The materials are not just high-quality; they are also environmentally friendly by nature. Technological advancements help develop and utilize sustainable materials. Patagonia, for example, is constantly investing in sustainable materials, reaching a 94% utilization of recycled materials. This speedy manufacturing process checks all the boxes.
On-Demand Technology: The Environmental Game-Changer
Speaking of fashion being tossed away, studies find that fashion brands have destroyed millions of dollars worth of unsold garments in recent years. Within five years, £90 mn worth of undesired goods were burned, including items from leading fashion houses like Burberry, which in 2018 destroyed £28.6 mn worth of unsold items.
A real environmental turning point in fast fashion is the rise of on-demand production. This approach involves producing garments only when there is a demand, significantly reducing overproduction and waste. It is fast by definition, as answering immediate market needs must be. Companies use real-time data to produce, print, and ship garments only when an order is placed, drastically cutting down on excess inventory and waste.
Empowering Employees through Technology
Another painful truth about fast fashion involves the people behind the garments. Employee exploitation is a widespread problem, as many workers do not earn a living wage and have their safety and health compromised too often.
The integration of technology in fast fashion manufacturing has the power to significantly improve working conditions, creating a safer and more comfortable workplace. Automated machinery has taken over many of the labor-intensive, repetitive tasks, reducing the risk of workplace errors and injuries. This shift allows employees to focus on more skilled and rewarding aspects of production.
Modern technology in the workplace is not just about automation; it’s also about empowering employees through skill development. Today’s tools and machines are intuitive and user-friendly, requiring minimal training. This has opened up opportunities for workers to upskill, leading to more fulfilling and higher-paying roles.
With efficiency also comes the luxury of time. Automated processes mean less need for long working hours, contributing to a better work-life balance for employees. This change is not just beneficial for the workers but also results in higher productivity and better-quality products.
The fast fashion industry is undergoing a positive transformation driven by technological innovation. While challenges still exist, the path forward is clear, and we have every reason to believe that technology will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry.