The Vestiaire Collective, a luxury marketplace, which claims to have “the best selection of designer clothing on the Internet,” is taking the radical move of banning all fast fashion from its platform. The second hand online e-tailer, said the move is consistent with its philosophy as a brand of implementing a slow-growth strategy to win in the marketplace, while underscoring its ethical beliefs.
For first time in recent memory, a marketplace has taken a stand on a social issue, although many businesses chimed in on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the historic legislation that granted women the right to an abortion. Vestiaire said it would have been hypocritical to continue offering fast fashion on the platform when it’s no secret that the global fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, while denying workers a living wage.
Alais Diop, global pr manager for Vestiaire Collective, said its members are all on-board with the initiative. So where will fast fashion go once it’s discarded, and now that it can’t have a second life on The Vestiaire Collective? The obvious answer is where it’s been going all along – landfills.
Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons of fashion waste ends up in landfills, according to earth.org. To put that in perspective, it’s the equivalent of a garbage-truck full of clothes emptying its haul in a landfill every second.
Last year, slow fashion brand Archive said it will limit customers’ shopping visits on the platform to 12 times per year, or once a month, in order to do its part towards effecting sustainability and saving the planet. It’s not clear how consumers will react to being told how and when they can shop.
Vestiaire said it couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to offer fast fashion when there’s no solution for society’s castoff garments. The e-commerce site wants consumers to know that people all over the world are suffering while making their clothing. Vestiaire said it would cease sourcing products from brands such as H&M and Shein, where items such as dresses and skirts sell for as little as $9, respectively.
Retail analyst Carol Spieckerman, president of Spieckerman Retail, has been following marketplaces since their inception about five years ago. The concept of a marketplace isn’t new, she said. Every society since the beginning of time has had bazars and business hubs where the city’s residents would go to barter with tradesmen over the price of their worn clothing, household goods and toys.
Spieckerman said the members of any society don’t want to be told what to do, even if it’s for the greater good. H&M has introduced a sustainable collection every year since 2015, and Shein often runs special sales of gently worn apparel that its members resell on its retail platform.
However, experts said a token sustainable collection isn’t scratching the surface of the amount of pollution the fashion industry unleashes, when the other 90% of a brand’s inventory is made in Third World countries where workers are exploited, antiquated factories are unsafe and a barrage of pollution is unleashed, contributing to the global climate change crisis.
Sales in the second-hand fast fashion market have been brisk, H&M said, noting that items in the sustainable capsules usually sell out within hours of going on sale. H&M said when consumers feel good about the products they’re buying and are confident in the knowledge that their purchase isn’t harming the environment, they buy more. Consumers, whose taste favors rock star-inspired fashion, have a lot to choose from at H&M.
Fast fashion has been under attack for several years, ever since environmentalists exposed the vertical and the extent to which manufacturing clothes contributes to the global warming crisis. Retailers don’t want to take on the problems of the world nor police suppliers and factories. But when celebrities and influencers began calling out the toll of fast fashion on the environment, consumers and retailers started to listen.
Fast fashion has been a driving force in initiatives that chronicle the ills of the industry. Yet, it’s safe to say that no industry in today’s world has entirely clean hands. Gas, oil rigs and transAtlantic pipelines are wiping out endangered species in Alaska, and beyond, taking a toll on the environment.
Archive Projects at The London College of Economics launched an initiative called, Change, which spelled out the extent to which the fashion industry has been complicit in polluting the world and the environmental cost of making clothes.
French fashion label Sandro joined Archive, a digital Resale as a Service company, to debut its secondhand program in the U.S. Software as a service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. More retailers are turning to SaaS to offer recycling opportunities to consumers, earning them cash or store credit while keeping them as consumers on the e-commerce site.
There’s no magic pill to stop the fashion industry from making robust profits on the backs of poor, and often, uneducated workers, when the reality is that cash speaks louder than equality.