Socially Responsible Fashion

Timeframe: 2016

In recent years there have been a number of dramatic changes in the fashion
retail arena, not only have consumer needs and wants changed but also the
way they purchase fashion products. The emergence of the fast fashion
business model allowed consumers access to new collections every few
weeks, with some retailers now moving to up to 12 collections per year.
Whilst this approach reflects the very antithesis of fashion; constantly
renewing itself and offering new trends every season, the pace of the supply
chain has also had to increase to meet demand. This constant access to new
fashion products has adapted the wants and needs of the consumer, with
quantity rather that quality being preferred. However it is this acceleration of
the supply chain that has lead to a number of social and environmental
issues occurring.

Opposing this speed of consumption is socially responsible purchasing,
where ethical considerations are taken into account during the design and/or
production of fashion. Both consumers and retailers alike are beginning to
adopt this approach evidenced in both corporate social responsibility
strategies and ethical purchasing behaviour. However there are key issues
currently preventing a fundamental change in the industry such as a lack of
incentives for responsible purchasing behaviour and poor aesthetics. It is
these issues that need addressing in order to push the industry towards a
more socially responsible future.

The positioning of the responsibility for the future of the industry is a highly
debated topic, with both consumers and retailers often being assumed
leaders. This chapter explores the role of the retailer in this debate and the
powerful position they are in as the middleman between the purchasing
consumers and the manufacturing suppliers. In order to influence consumer
behaviour towards a more socially responsible approach, retailers need to
engage their consumers in an innovative way. Their unique role is to inspire
their consumers, using fashion as the communication vehicle for a drive
towards future change.