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The Achilles heel of fashion: Overstock

How fashion has mass-produced itself into being one of the worlds biggest environmental damaging industries.

Workers in the textile factory.
Workers in the textile factory.

I have a hate-love relationship to the industry I´m working in; The Fashion industry. I love the creative, artistic, innovative and visionary side of the business. But we have two major problems. Overconsumption but more importantly – overproduction.

The fashion industry is a traditional industry. The innovative side of the business has been in the sales channels, how you physically sell and present the product by digitalization for both B2B and B2C as well as distribution and logistics. The technology has reached all segments of fashion. But the core issue is still there. We produce more than customers buy.

The biggest issue of the fashion industry is not how we all sell it. The problem is what we don´t sell. Our industry have mass-produced ourselves into being one of the worlds biggest environmental damaging industries, while depleting resources, devastating and polluting lands, oceans and whole countries. 

We put all responsibility on the consumer, while this industry never had a 100% sell-through. Instead of pulling products into the market with real demands, we push products and stock on the markets by forecasts, best-guesses, and trend analysis. In the end, we have produced more products than the markets demand and have to get rid of it by burning it or trying to dispose of it. It´s a tiny percentage of all companies that recycle produced products.

A clear example is Burberry which burned stock worth 38,6 m USD last year. That is one brand.

If we are turning to the consumers to take all responsibility, we must also include the companies responsible for actively producing the stock. My company included.

But lets go back to patient zero. 

Most of the big suppliers today have a MOQ, a minimum order quantity to secure your order of your products. Usually this quantity starts at 300-500 pcs (fabric and unit m. If you are a small company, this is a tough quantity to commit to, you are most likely not able to sell all this stock. If you are a big company, you still take a calculated risk in the stock you commit to. A summer can be cold, a winter can be warm. With all the climate changes in the world, the industry is very sensitive to seasonalities and weather changes.

Sustainable fabrics in all honor. It doesn’t matter if we produce sustainable fabrics and turning them into products if we still deplete resources from the earth that is not being sold or is demanded. It doesn´t matter if the production is near shore if products are collecting dust in a warehouse. It doesn´t matter if you secure water waste or other substaintial sustaniablily work on the product if no one wants to buy it. 

Reading the latest report from McKinsey (State of fashion 2019) one thing is clear. The Millenials will have a word in this. It´s the people who believe they can change the world with their shopping habits. Being a millennial myself, I have built my company by this mindset with my team.

According to a survey by Deloitte done in 2018, 73% of Millennials believe businesses can have a positive impact on the world, but they also think today’s companies aren’t doing a very good job. From McKinsey’s report from 2019, 71% of the Millenials demands that the products they buy are sustainable and that the company is transparent. 81% of the Millenials are willing to pay more for a sustainable product. The Fashion industry can´t deny the fact that Millenials represent 40% of all customers by 2020 in all segments.

It´s time for a real change.

If Millenials are hungry for newness but demand sustainability the innovation must come from production to solve the core issue, and for us the solution is clear. We must go back to On Demand production.

I´m addressing everyone in this industry, as well as consumers to support the brands that take real ownership of this situation but more importantly – support the brands that bring the solution.

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