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The Dilemma of Consumer Satisfaction and Environmental Preservation

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Every year, the fashion industry incinerates around 86% of finalized goods that account for approximately 20% of water waste as per garment to be developed; it requires 5,000 gallons of water. Let’s not forget the highly toxic materials used throughout the production, incinerated, and released later into the air. The industry additionally faces significant ethical problems as many workers are paid below minimum wage and struggle to purchase essential need items from water, food, to health care.

It is simple to say the industry suffers grave criticism; for example, Burberry in 2018 was exposed to incinerating 38$ million worth of clothes, sales dropped rapidly as still today, the brand is working hard to rebuild its brand image. Today, the theme of sustainability within the younger generations is of great importance; if a business is bashed for being unsustainable, the consequences are prominent, negative advertising, a substantial drop in sales, diluting brand image, and more—the generation command for more GREEN. For this purpose, the industry is attempting to realize a circular business model which aids in prolonging the life cycle of the goods. 

A circular business model prolongs the life frame of clothes, shoes, and bags. The products are resold on second-hand platforms, leased for a particular period to be reused over time, or simply recover from the ruined item. Brands from Chanel, Dior to FlippaK, provide repair services that restore damaged goods. Filippa K provides a care service that informs customers on methods to help prolong the item’s life frame by utilizing different washing techniques and storage methods.

Some brands realize the idea of renting; however, it’s a less common approach as there is the factor of hygiene involved. MUD, a trendy jean manufacturer, invites individuals to sign up to their membership program to lease jeans that can be returned, purchased, or substituted. The notion of leasing is slowly but steadily growing in the industry as nowadays multiple rental services exist to lease clothes for diverse occasions.

Nevertheless, the most popular circular method is resale; from teens to college students, it is employed by everyone. The resale market has grown nonstop as it offers individuals to obtain sought items for more affordable prices. This method is more liked by high-end brands as it stimulates the seller’s economic level, further making them direct clients of the brand. 

Gucci in 2020 partnered with The RealReal, a second-hand clothing platform that assists people to resell items that are no longer needed. Gucci and The RealReal have been an unexpected joint urge as the two markets are each other’s enemies. The partnership pushes Gucci consumers to resell the brand’s items on the platform to avoid waste and incineration. The business promotes a circular model as the life of the items is elongated, and reselling brings financial power to the seller. The birth of partnerships hopes to stimulate other high-end luxury brands to approach a reselling mindset.  

The circular business model avoids an unsustainable industry from high water waste, air pollution, high waste levels. However, big brands find it challenging to approach a greener light as fulfilling a circular business model could bring a drop in brand value and negative image, as it harms the idea of exclusivity: as today leads the market. The circular business model is a step closer to a better functioning industry that doesn’t injure the second party; however, a more significant change is needed by being one of the largest industrial polluters.

Companies must rethink ways to reuse unsold pieces by creating new articles or furnishing materials to those in need. Additionally, focus on recuperating unwanted items, especially in fast fashion like in the cosmetology industry with packaging bottles. However, let’s not solely point our fingers at the big corporations, which simply follow the demand curve and consumer trends. With the continuous upbringing of new items in fast fashion, it is easy for the consumer to keep replacing items with a fresher look.

However, the overproducing of items and purchases is harmful to the environment as more and more articles are being tossed after a short period and unable to be resold as they are initially sold at affordable prices and simple to obtain. Consumers need to be educated about the matter; schools worldwide are instating special courses that highlight this unique topic, but how can those with a set mindset be taught to think and approach life differently? 

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