Fast fashion: a throw-away trend?

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Fashion is a fickle business. Not exactly a groundbreaking observation, but add to that the current trend for “fast fashion” and it becomes all the more apparent. What’s in one week is out the window the next – and quite literally, it seems.

In the UK alone, around one million tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill each year, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as consumers discard last season’s trends and retailers get rid of surplus stock.

In fact, textile waste at council tips now accounts for 30 per cent, compared to just seven per cent five years ago.

Retail technology expert Torex published a report last week illustrating the importance of effective supply chain management when it comes to cutting down waste.

Helen Slaven, vice president of retail, outlined a number of steps retailers can take to cut down on clothes waste in the supply chain, such as accurately predicting sales to reduce overstocking, which she says will conserve resources and improve the bottom-line, as well as promoting an ethical and sustainable public image.

She said: “Some of the fashion retailers we speak to about this issue are still relying on legacy spreadsheet-based solutions for stock planning and distribution requirements. This model has limited capacity to cater for the flexible needs of local markets and fast-changing fashion trends.

“Automated merchandise planning systems serve fashion businesses far more effectively; going beyond the traditional methods of allocating stock by store size…Sophisticated planning tools take into account a range of variables, including the needs of the local market, store type and other factors such as planned promotions.”

However, she warns that while merchandise planning and allocation have a key role to play in helping retailers cut down on unnecessary stock production, “their usage must be accompanied by a robust and ethical overall approach to retailing, beyond lip service to the issue”.

Of course, there’s no accounting for what happens to clothes once they leave the shop, but if retailers lead by example it’s certainly a good step forward and away from this throw-away culture we’ve slipped into.

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