Why We Should Be Talking About Degrowth in Fashion

We wanted to take an introductory look into the idea of degrowth, specifically in the garment industry, based on an article from Remake Our World by Sumedha Vemulakonda entitled, “Why We Should Be Talking About Degrowth in Fashion.”

According to Business Insider, clothing production has roughly doubled in the last 20 years. In visual terms, the World Economic Forum reports that fast fashion’s production cycle is “the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes burned or dumped in a landfill every second. Due to changes in the production cycles, influenced by fast fashion but implemented across the industry, clothes are produced faster and in greater quantity than ever before. This is only possible through labor exploitation and massive post-production and textile waste.

Overproduction is the result of both short-term trends and increasingly-subcontracted labor. A 2011 study form the International Journal of e-Education, e-Business, e-Management, and e-Learning found: typical production process for an average company from design to delivery is 6 months, but for Zara it’s more like 5 weeks. This overproduction is just exploitation being pushed to a natural conclusion for companies striving for profit. The main effects of this are:

  1. Brands increasingly use short-term contracts with subcontracted manufacturers and wash their hands of responsibility for labor abuses.
  2. Retailers frequently grossly overestimate demand for flexibility and profit and most companies burn and shred any unsold, “dead” inventory.
  3. Waste at any stage of the process is often dumped into areas surrounding production sites, polluting waterways.

Degrowth [is] a planned reduction of product volume and slowed consumption of clothing. Most can agree degrowth on the consumer end, in the form of second-hand consumption and purchasing fewer, well-made clothes, is a no-brainer. What should happen on the production end is more complex. Degrowth, if implemented correctly, could curb carbon emissions and dead inventory, as well as facilitate longer-term contracts with workers. But how to go about it? The article strongly advocates for AI tech to predict consumer demand, and thereby abolish overproduction. Do you agree?

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