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How Brands Can Facilitate Responsible Fast Fashion Supply Chains

Establishing a sustainable fast fashion supply chain is possible for apparel brands.

A session at Texworld USA in New York last week discussed how brands engaging in the fast fashion model could improve their supply chain processes with organic materials, frequent communication, local manufacturing and a unique brand identity.

Shoppers today not only want immediate additions to their wardrobes, but environmentally-friendly and functional ones as well. To achieve this, certain materials can be used to facilitate a greener fast-fashion supply chain. These power materials, including certified organic cotton and recycled polyester, are fueling sustainable fast fashion and changing the way clothes are designed for consumers.

“One of the things people don’t realize is that 20 percent of the world’s water pollution comes from textiles and dyeing,” MetaWear CEO Marci Zaroff said. “Organic and sustainable materials to me are the future of fashion.”

In the race to the racks, accountability can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to fast fashion, despite the fact that it could make or break a brand’s market presence. Every entity involved, from buyers to suppliers to factories, take part in all steps of the fast fashion supply chain. By holding workers and factories accountable, brands can facilitate transparency and incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices in their fast fashion production. Furthermore, consumers will appreciate their fast fashion merchandise and the fact that brands are contributing to environmental progress.

“It is important to be able to talk about your supply chain and not just your finished product,” BF + DA production coordinator Tara St. James said. “We are seeing a lot of immediate and direct communication between brands and their consumers.”

Buhler Quality Yarns VP of sales David Sasso suggested local manufacturing for brands engaging in the fast fashion model. Removing overseas production enables brands to have control over every step of the supply chain, from material sourcing to finished goods.

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“If you want to handle smaller minimums and manage your production, you have to get involved personally,” Sasso said.

Instant fashion isn’t going away and could remain a popular business model for the industry in coming years. While transforming their fast fashion supply chains into more sustainable processes, brands also need to stay differentiated despite the in-season, buy-now, wear-now craze.

As The Doneger Group creative director Kai Chow said, fast fashion doesn’t have to be about following what every other company does. “The strategy is be nice to your suppliers and know who you are,” he said.