Analysis of Current Changes Affecting the Fashion Industry

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There are many kinds of industries that have greatly and directly impacted people’s lives. The fashion industry is one of them. Since the beginning of time until now, people’s sense and interest in their fashion styles have changed, and so does the fashion industry. When there are changes, there are always implications. This paper would analyse the changes in digital technology, natural environment, and global economy in relations to the fashion industry by focusing on the impacts of the changes on the industries and their reponses.

How Modern Industry 4.0 Looks Like

In today’s world, Industry 4.0 is making changes everywhere. It is all about connectivity through digital technology and comes in the form of AI, 3D printing, robots, automation, and social media platforms. In order to meet people’s demands, digital technology has also been integrated into the fashion industry. Digital technology has improved the fashion industry by producing unique designs based on sales projection. AI is used inside the fashion industry to help and predict the future trends of fashions, spot fabric, choose certain colors for certain designs. 3D printing and body scanning are being used inside the fashion industry to turn the most improbable project into reality within minutes and measure body sizes before making virtual size prediction. In addition to having AI in the production and manufacturing processes, digital technology also helps to promote and sell fashion brands through social media platforms, which is known as “e-commerce”. By using their mobile phones, customers can easily choose their own design and their favorite clothes within seconds. According to BigCommerce, “Two out of three millennials prefer to shop online rather than go to a physical store'. Social media is also being used as a method of advertising campaigns. Through the increase in popularity of social media platforms, people can see the advertisements of fashion brands on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, etc. These technologies are being created at a right time to aid with the increasing popularity of ongoing, quick fashion trends and allow the industry to enhance their capabilities in producing more garments to meet the demand in a shorter period of time.

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On the other hand, the fashion industry is known as the second largest polluter in the world. As the customers buy more clothes in relation to the cheap prices to catch up with the fashion trend, fast fashion is being introduced and has greatly impacted the environment. Fast fashion is the mass production of clothes, sold at cheap prices, to catch up with the trends of branded designers. It would look like Zara putting out 24 collections per year or the doubling of clothing production since the year 2000. Even if it is estimated that 80 billion garments are being produced each year, we only wear each garment 7 times before getting rid of them. This would cause the buildup of garment waste, which according to the World Economic Forum, “85% of textiles go into landfills each year'. This is an alarming issue because the synthetic fibers that make up 72% of our clothing need up to 200 years to decompose. In addition to the waste build-up by the consumers, the fashion industry has also produced 10% of all carbon emissions in the production, manufacturing, and transportation process and is the second’s largest consumer of water, which is used to grow cotton and dye fabric. Deforestation clears out lands for the factories or cotton farms, and the trees are turned into fabrics. It is stated that “50 million trees each year are logged and turned into fabrics.” On top of this, the synthetic garments in our clothes, such as polyester, nylon, etc., are being released into the water sources (rivers, oceans, etc.) every time we wash our clothes. Those plastic particles are being eaten by fishes, which therefore pollutes the water source and becomes a part of our food chain. Solutions have been made in accordance to this problem such as choosing organic fibers, create environmental laws or produce clothes in countries with strict environmental laws, and buy less but better quality clothes, etc. These solutions would be hard for the companies to use, since it would decrease their profits. When fast fashion is being celebrated, more clothing is being made and discarded, which would cause more harm to the environment.

The Role of Fashion in the Development of Global Economy

The fashion industry has played an important role in bettering the global economy. According to the United States Joint Economic Committee, “Fashion is highly sophisticated, and made $2.5 trillion global industry'. It is also expected that there would be a 400% increase in the world GDP in 2050 for the demand for fashions. China has been one of the important factors that shift the global economy, including the fashion industry as well. Most fast fashion brands such as H&M, ZARA, and Uniqlo are fleeing to China which made it the world’s biggest fashion market in 2019. There are also other few positive impacts of fast fashion in bettering the economy. First of all, fast fashion helps to adapt to the quick changing of the world and resilience or trends due to its quick production and short-lasting qualities. Second of all, fast fashion reduce the prices for customers to purchase because it is made out of cheap, short-lasting materials. With this, it could boost the global economy because consumer spending made up more than 70% of the world economy. Thirdly, fast fashion has helped developing countries to increase their workforce growth. Ninety-seven percent of the fast fashion industry are located in developing countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and China, due to the low wages and the number of hours the workers can work. According to the World Health Organisation, stated that “Clothing is mainly manufactured in developing countries because they often have low wages, and do not have environmental legislatures.” Many workers worked up to 13-16 hours a day, seven days a week with low wages, and sometimes with no overtime payment. In this way, it will increase future economic growth through labor, giving out low wages, and discouraging the skills of technologies, since using technology can be expensive. Fast fashion would increase the global economy, but with the expense of labor abuse, because to many companies, profits matter more than the workers’ conditions.

The changes in digital technology, natural environment, and global economy have greatly impacted the fashion industry. A change in digital technology would have the most significant impact since it connects people around the world to one platform filled with different clothing choices they could choose from and personalize, and would only take a short period of time to be created before being delivered to their doorsteps. This would greatly fasten the rate of the ongoing development and fame of the fashion industry. A change in the natural environment comes from the popularity of fast fashion, in which many clothings are being created resulting in consequences for the land, water, and air, while many clothings are being discarded at the same time, resulting in the build up of waste. A change in the global economy is also caused by fast fashion and how the markets are being shifted to countries with more consumers and factories are being shifted to countries with less wages for the workers and moderate environmental policies.

From the analysis above, if the fashion industry still celebrate and produce fast fashion and value profits more than its workers’ conditions and the environment, sustainable fashion would not be achieved and this industry would grow in the expense of more consequences in the long run.  

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