The fashion supply chain is the start to finish of a garment, going from the idea to the consumer. Every supply chain is different and it involves many individuals in every step of the production.
The first step of the supply chain is the idea or design of the garment/collection. In a slow fashion brand, the company considers the different impacts that can occur in every stage of the supply chain. Such as the materials, the production, and the consumer’s usage of the product to “minimize the adverse effects on the world around them”. In contrast to slow fashion, fast fashion looks for the cheapest and most affordable way to have a garment made.
The next step is the fibers or the sourcing of the right fibers. It can be different for every company, they may be looking for manufactured fibers or natural fibers. Manufactured fibers include those that are regenerated from natural materials, synthetic fibers, and inorganic fibers. Such as rayon, acetate, acrylic, nylon, polyester, and so many more. Natural fibers are made from natural resources that include plants, animals, and minerals. Such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, angora, and many more.
Next, we have textile manufacturing, in this process, the fibers are being made into fabric. This involves spinning the raw materials into a fiber, weaving it into a fabric, and dyeing and finishing it. Textile production is a major part of environmental pollution because of the greenhouse gas emissions and the contamination of air and freshwater. According to Good On You, “The textile industry is estimated to use 378 billion liters of water annually, using up to 200 liters of water to process, dye, and finish each kilo of textiles”.
The next step in the supply chain is garment manufacturing, which involves the cutting, sewing, and finishing of a garment. In this process, there are a lot of ethical issues, such as forced labor and poor labor conditions. Most production occurs in third-world countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and many other countries. The biggest victims that are forced into poor working conditions are women and girls, according to the International Labour Organization, “almost 21 million people in the world are victims of forced labor within the clothing and textile industry–11.4 million of these are women and girls”.
Next, we have the distribution and the retail, in this process, the clothing is manufactured and ready to be transported to retailers. Like all of the other processes in the supply chain, transportation is one of the leading ways of pollution. Producing carbon emissions, whether it’s by plane, car, truck, train, or boat.
Finally, there are the consumers, this is the process we as consumers have control of. The garment is already bought, but what are we going to do with it? Are we going to wear it multiple times? Wear it once? or throw it out? In this last step, we can control the product use and whether or not we will be purchasing more products. According to Good On You, “13% goes to material recovery and 13% to incineration,” and the remainder of the clothes and textiles goes to landfills. As consumers, we get to decide the environmental impact of the product bought. Now take a second to ask yourself the following questions:
Does this company have a transparent supply chain?
Who made my clothes?
Do I really need it?
How many times have I worn this?
Can I mend and reuse this garment?