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Fast Fashion and Ethical Consumption Essay (Literature Review)

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Updated: Jun 9th, 2022

Introduction

The industry of fast fashion offers a wide range of available garments, which makes it attractive for many people around the world. The widespread consumption of cheap clothing is used by companies to maximise their profits and sell as many products as possible. The global apparel market grows rapidly by 3-6% per year (O’Connell, 2019). Chang and Jai (2015) state that this dominant business model promotes greater consumption that is led by the claims for the so-called democratisation of fashion when the latest trends are made available for all consumers. In this context, fast fashion is understood as cheap clothing that was created based on celebrity culture and high street stores (Chang and Jai, 2015). The main idea behind fast fashion is to copy and produce clothing for the mass market as soon as possible, catching the moment of their popularity.

Fast fashion leads to overproduction and overconsumption that compose one of the key problems in the 21st century. Stringer, Mortimer and Payne (2020) emphasise that a lack of sustainable consumption, environmental pollution, and changing consumer preferences compose the adverse consequences of these problems. Considering that globalisation facilitates international relations, fast fashion develops across the countries. Western companies, such as Gap or Walmart, tend to cooperate with the developing countries due to cheap labour; Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China are the leading exporters for fast fashion (Taplin, 2014). A lack of ethical consumption minors global morality and erodes society since those who buy do not think about the influence of their purchasing decisions, while those who produce have to work for minimal wages in dangerous environments.

The environmental impact of fast fashion is another concern that is discussed in the literature. Many retailers use the cheapest fabrics that are produced from fossil fuels, which promote global warming, and the use of microspheres multiplies plastic trash (Zamani, Sandin and Peters, 2017). The use of these materials requires a lot of water and electricity, which can result in soil quality and biodiversity issues. Bowers (2019) reports that the fast fashion industry produces 10% of carbon emissions and causes 20% of water pollution, while 85% of garments is sent to landfills annually. At the same time, fast fashion encourages the culture of throwing away and overconsumption. Such clothing implies rapid obsolesce and the need to constantly buy more products as a way of satisfaction (Kim, Park and Glovinsky, 2018). The pressure on the environment and people is enormous, and it is likely to grow without changing people’s attitudes towards fast fashion. Therefore, it is critical to pay attention to how fast fashion impacts society, understanding the current trends and gaps.

The issue of fast fashion is of contemporary, topical, and academic interest since it should be considered from different perspectives. For academics, research is the main instrument to identify underlying problems and suggest decisions. The organisation and structuring of the existing literature is another beneficial step towards determining the areas to improve the identified situation. For policymakers, the findings of academics seem to be useful to adjust the policies for reducing environmental pollution and making the choices of consumers more deliberate. In turn, practicing managers may gain valuable insights by understanding the buying intentions of customers and the ways to make consumption more sustainable (Li et al., 2014). A collaborative approach to the solution of the given problem seems to be the most relevant option.

Outline of the Topic

The research shows that society tends to become more and more aware of the need to reconsider purchasing behaviours. The emergence of calls for sustainable consumption and environmental pollution prevention tend to be pronounced within the last decade (Li et al., 2014). In this connection, both the production end and consumers should transform their approaches to fashion consumption. Consequently, it is important to understand motivations that underpin customers’ choices and also explore the impact of fast fashion on the environment. One of the promising areas for improvement is the concept brand sustainability, which may increase customer loyalty and the perceived value of clothing. By paying attention to how companies build their business models and integrate environmental issues, it is possible to better understand the problem and come up with pertinent solutions. Without further research and practical actions, the identified issues would escalate, leading to disruptive outcomes. In other words, the timeliness of this review is justified by the urgent nature of the mentioned problems.

The main advantage of this narrative literature review is the presentation of a variety of perspectives. As stated by Bhattacharya (2017), reviews encourage scholarly discussions that, in turn, stimulate both scholars and readers to ponder over the target problem. Another benefit is associated with the method of information collection and analysis, which is transparent and reproducible by others. The qualitative nature of the review also allows for detailed explorations of the context, methods, and results of the studies. However, the disadvantages of this narrative review comprise the risk of biased conclusions that can be caused by the subjectivity of a researcher, as well as the potential failure to merely describe data instead of synthesis (Maruyama and Ryan, 2014). The limitations that should be mentioned are the restricted number of articles under the review and the journals included in the ABS list.

Methodology Reflection

A narrative literature review is selected to analyse and synthesise available information on the impact of fast fashion on society. The findings are structured in three tables (streams), each of which focuses on a particular sub-topic, including ethical consumption, environmental impact, and customer preferences and intentions. The investigation of three areas is useful for presenting a broad perspective on the issue being reviewed. Based on the condensed format of data in tables, the details are discussed in a written format. Consistent with Juntunen and Lehenkari (2019), this narrative literature review pulls different pieces of evidence into a readable version. The integration of articles is expected to reveal the gaps, tendencies, and limitations that exist in the contemporary literature.

For this literature review, data is obtained from academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals and enumerated on the ABS list. The use of this academic journal guide ensures that information is of high quality. In addition, all of the reviewed articles are empirical as they include data collection and analysis. The inclusion criteria are the relevance to the target topic, study design, and publication date (2013-2020). Among the exclusion criteria, there are systematic reviews, conceptual papers and outdated sources. Before including a study in the review, the abstracts were thoroughly examined and integrated according to common issues being researched. This allowed the researcher to use the time more effectively, avoiding non-pertinent sources. After that, the full texts of the selected articles were read to make sure that all the necessary details will be noted. In the process of writing this report, some supporting articles were found and cited to make the paper more comprehensive and beneficial to accomplish the goal of clarifying implications for managers, management education and policy makers.

The Discover search engine was used to search the relevant literature and select the articles that fit the inclusion criteria. The key words for the stream of ethical consumption involved such words as “ethical consumption”, “sustainable consumption” and fast fashion consumption. The query returned 9,456 articles, of which 10 were selected due to their potential contribution to the theme of this literature review paper. For the second stream of fast fashion impact on customers’ behaviours, the following search key words were considered: “fast fashion”, “hedonism”, “utilitarianism”, “circular clothing perception”, and “awareness of sustainable clothing”. After filtering 6,254 findings, 11 studies were included in the review. The third stream of the review focuses on the role of fast fashion in environmental pollution. It turned out that this sub-topic included plenty of technologic and environmental studies, but the relations between the mentioned issues were researched insufficiently. The initial return of 12,262 sources was sorted based on both exclusion and inclusion criteria to arrive at 10 articles. The repeated sources were also eliminated, and common sense was applied to avoid out of topic studies.

Literature Review

The fast fashion literature includes a range of academic articles that explore several companies and resources to identify the current tendencies and problems. Considering the nature of collected articles and the themes they highlight, it was decided to organise this literature review according to the following three streams: ethical consumption, environmental impact and customer preferences / intentions. Namely, the streams are summarised in the format of tables.

Ethical Consumption

Ethical Customer Identification: Motivation

Fast fashion revolutionised the clothing industry by making it more accessible to different categories of customers. This low-cost production is made of cheap materials and rapidly replaced by new models, which creates overconsumption threats (Coskun, Gupta and Burnaz, 2020; Pantano, Giglio and Dennis, 2019). With the emergence and rapid development of sustainable consumption agenda, many researchers turned to focusing on the links between fast fashion and ethical consumption. In their study, McNeill and Moore (2015) employed the developmental theory, which implies that human cognition can be classified to stages, to understand the attitudes of customers regarding sustainable consumption. The data was collected by means of open-ended interviews with 28 participants (Table 1). The authors arrived at the conclusion that there are three types of customers with various values. In particular, “self” consumers are oriented towards hedonistic principles that declare the importance of pleasure (McNeill and Moore, 2015). “Sacrifice” consumers try to decrease their influence on the world, while “social” clients are engaged in social image concerns.

A more detailed customer identification of ethical consumption of clothing is presented by Bly, Gwozdz, and Reisch (2015) and Reimers, Magnuson and Chao (2016). These scholars focused on the research of the so-called sustainable fashion consumption pioneers, who tend to actively engage in the discussion of the need to buy green apparel. Using passive netnography and semi-structured interviews, it was revealed that for them, ethical consumption means decreasing measurable environmental or social impact (Bly, Gwozdz, and Reisch, 2015). In other words, for people valuing green consumption, the concepts of fashion and one’s personal style are much wider compared to average customers, who cannot imagine their lives without the constant purchase of fast fashion clothes. At the same time, Reimers, Magnuson and Chao (2016) add to the evidence by investigating how consumers identify and measure sustainability of fast fashion. They reported that environmental responsibility, animal welfare, employee welfare and slow fashion attributes are the key areas of concern.

Customers’ Perception Patterns

While speaking about how customers perceive ethical consumption, it is beneficial to review several studies that study eco-friendliness in the context of fast fashion. Blasi, Brigato and Sedita (2020) reviewed the accounts of Twitter users to test the hypothesis that greater eco-friendliness improves a brand’s image. The authors applied a novel data mining technology to synthesise social media conversations. Such key words as style, glamour, fashion, ethical business and environment were targeted. As a result, they computed the similarity and found the correlation between luxury brands’ images and positive perceptions of customers. However, this correlation is weaker for fast fashion brands, which indicates the insufficient consideration of ethical clothing from retailers (see Table 1 for details). The potential extension of H&M and Zara was examined by the above authors based on the online survey that was completed by 598 customers (Hill and Lee, 2015). It is essential to note that customers consider that fast fashion can be sustainable.

Another issue discussed by McNeill and Moore (2015) refers to the perceived barriers to ethical consumption of fast fashion. The authors rationally state that the fear to look worse and less fashionable, social conditioning and costs that can be significantly higher. In turn, the barriers that impede customers from ethical consumption are investigated by Wiederhold and Martinez (2018), who focus on 13 participants from Germany (Table 1). In both articles, it is emphasised that green purchasing behaviour is a trend, but there is a gap between customers’ views and their purchasing. The analysis of interviews allowed revealing the following list of barriers: barriers are price, transparency, availability, knowledge, consumption habits, image and inertia. Price and a lack of proper information are regarded as the most widely discussed barriers, which means that better awareness of consumers and more affordable prices would improve the situation. These inhibiting determinants are noted as useful for retailers and managers to consider them while planning new collections and interacting with customers.

A lack of sustainable fast fashion is mentioned by customers as one of the most challenging issues on the way to green apparel purchasing. Consistent with Wiederhold and Martinez (2018), Lundblad and Davies (2015) found that ethical brands are rarely presented in this sector. The interviewees’ concerns refer to the association between trendy designs and synthetic fabrics. More to the point, the majority of ethical brands look non-fashionable, boring, and alternative, as reported by consumers (Wiederhold and Martinez, 2018). This leads to the distorted perceptions of green apparel as of poor image clothing. The means-end approach that was employed by Lundblad and Davies (2015) also showed that the need for self-expression and self-esteem play a critical role in the fact that customers underestimate sustainable fashion consumption. The details of the above study are given in Table 1.

Sustainable Marketing Activities

The study of sustainable marketing activities can be identified as another area of research even though it is not sufficient yet. According to Jung, Kim and Kim (2020), brands’ sustainable approaches improve customers’ satisfaction and trust. This article adopted the quantitative method of data collection and analysis to determine the key characteristics of sustainability increase in the fashion industry. The ethical brand image was confirmed to impact brand loyalty and customer satisfaction, which is also stated by other articles involved in this literature review. Stringer, Mortimer and Payne (2020) and Turker and Altuntas (2014) claim that supplier amenableness with their code of conduct is one of the ways to build a sustainable product. Such values as self-transcendence and openness to changes are two more aspects that make a positive influence on customer awareness. Authenticity and trust were also found to be linked with the purchasing intentions of customers, who are interested in fast fashion ethical consumption (Jung, Kim and Kim (2020). As it can be understood from the last three studies, companies have not yet adopted ethical approaches, while they tend to be increasingly interested in the future changes.

The issue of ethical consumption of fast fashion products is widely explored in the academic literature, which points to the interest among scholars and practitioners. The articles included in this stream are varied in their focus of analysis and areas of coverage. Since these studies reflect the key findings of the recent research, it is possible to state that they are influential regarding the required changes. It becomes transparent that the call for a more ethical clothing consumption contributes to further studies. The awareness of customers’ perceptions, attitudes, motivational factors and barriers allows for understanding how to promote sustainability. The practical implications for managers, policy makers and retailers are clarified in the Analysis and Critical Discussion section of this paper.

Table 1. Fast fashion and ethical consumption

Study Context Purpose Methodology Findings
Blasi, Brigato and Sedita (2020) eco-friendliness perception assess the link between fashion and eco-friendliness data mining the link is weak
Bly, Gwozdz, and Reisch (2015) sustainable fashion meaning explore sustainable fashion consumption pioneers semi‐structured interviews decreasing measurable environmental or social impact
Hill and Lee (2015) potential sustainable line extension clarify customer perceptions online surveys brand-cause fit and brand-extension fit
Jung, Kim and Kim (2020) ethical needs sustainable
marketing activities reflection
questionnaire and survey brands’ sustainability improve customers’ satisfaction
Lundblad and Davies (2015) sustainable fashion emergence consumers’ motivations means–end approach environment, self, health, goals, and social justice
McNeill and Moore (2015) developmental theory attitudes of customers open-ended survey 3 types of consumers: self, social, and sacrifice
Reimers, Magnuson and Chao (2016) a lack of support for ethical clothing ethical clothing survey environmental responsibility, animal welfare, and slow fashion attributes
Stringer, Mortimer and Payne (2020) purchase intentions understand ethical concerns Amazon MTurk survey self-transcendence values and openness to change
Turker and Altuntas (2014) global operations explore sustainable supply chain management analysis of reports supplier compliance with their code of conduct
Wiederhold and Martinez (2018) ethical consumerism barriers to purchasing green apparel interviews price, transparency, availability, knowledge, image and inertia

Impact of Fast Fashion Industry on Changing Consumer Preferences and Intentions

Responsiveness to Consumer Needs

The increased responsiveness to the demands of customers is one of the key features of fast fashion. The process of developing and launching new products is quite rapid as retailers are likely to present new clothes and accessories weekly or even daily (Gabrielli, Baghi and Codeluppi, 2013; Miller, 2013). This requires involving a range of actors, such as designers, managers, marketers, textile and technical specialists, et cetera. Such a collaborative approach to fast fashion products impacts customers by making them savvy for continuous purchasing. There is a range of ways to interact with customers and collect data regarding their expectations. For example, Payne (2016) listed celebrity styles and magazines, sales data and other brands as the determining factors (Table 2). Accordingly, fast fashion companies strive to support the modern negative trend of overconsumption (Payne, 2016). Although some brands offer recycled clothes, others seem to disregard the calls for sustainable consumption.

Emotional Connection

The loyalty to fast fashion brands is one of the major areas of concern that are presented in the academic literature. According to the mixed method study by Kim, Park and Glovinsky (2018), customer involvement allows for changing their consciousness and improving their trust to the brand. This study included 306 female participants, who were interviewed for collecting the necessary data. The emotional connection is also stressed by Gabrielli, Baghi and Codeluppi (2013), stating that the analysis of fast fashion from the standpoint for a customer is poorly researched, while this approach has a great potential to clarify the preferences of particular consumers. This exploratory study included 64 consumers who were asked to share their attitudes towards fast fashion clothing (Gabrielli, Baghi and Codeluppi, 2013) (Table 2). The main benefit of this article is that it introduces a new perspective on evaluating customers’ intentions. By being aware of this perspective, it is possible to better comprehend their needs and influence their purchasing decisions.

To remain aware of the fast fashion industry, customers visit online sources, celebrity blogs and online stores. The statistical analysis conducted by Payne (2016) showed that consensus was targeted by the companies to gather relevant information from inspiration sources and interpret it with regard to customers’ preferences. This method is mentioned as useful for not only providing customers with a wide choice of options but also motivate them to look better. Embodiment is another method that is applied by fast fashion retailers either deliberately or unconsciously, thus tapping to their interests. The so-called gut feeling is reported by the interviewed designers (Payne, 2016). Linking the above article with the rest of the literature, one can refer to the statement that ephemeral fashion and uniqueness drive customers’ pleasure seeking-activities (Miller, 2013). It is clear that hedonistic consumer responses are caused by the appeal to have fun and enjoyment and develop one’s fantasy. For example, Zara launched the mobile application that allows customers to mix clothes and see prices without visiting their stores.

Hedonistic Consumption and Purchase Urgency

Along with inviting customers to have a pleasant experience, fast fashion creates a sense of urgency for purchasing. In this connection, Mrad et al. (2020) explored the phenomenon of brand addiction, concluding that hedonic consumption is associated with the transfer of symbolic meaning and emotional excitement, a stream of fantasies, feelings and impressions, regardless of the connection with the direct attributes of the purchased product. Su and Chang (2018) also stressed that the fantasy aspect of hedonistic consumption refers to a consumer’s reproduction of emotional images. In turn, by means of focus groups and interviews, Zarley Watson and Yan (2013) pointed to utilitarianism, self-image congruence and remorse avoidance as the driving forces that make customers purchase more (Table 2). As noted by these authors, the continued satisfaction with the purchased product is another issue that was found to be useful for brand loyalty.

The belongingness to the fast fashion trend does not prevent it from the opportunity of being perfectly combined with the clothing of the luxury segment, because it has a rich palette of colours and line-up (Zarley Watson and Yan (2013). Namely, it is not complicated to create such collaboration as fashion brings trends to people, high design is a of peak state, a starting point, and fast fashion is a flow directed specifically towards a consumer. A customer can always come and choose an ultra-fashionable cloth for a special price, depending on his or her preferences. Zarley Watson and Yan (2013) and Shen, Choi and Chow (2017) claim that it is convenient, especially since the choice is always huge, these things are easy to combine with each other and complement, and they are available. The motive of pleasure is becoming more and more important in the consumption of fast fashion and luxury fashion as well (Shen, Choi and Chow (2017). For example, a growing number of jewellery purchases are made by women not for the purpose of long-term investments or the acquisition of symbols of social success, but for the sake of satisfying the desire to pamper and please themselves.

Business Strategies: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

The available literature on the impact of fast fashion on customer intentions is associated with the business strategies. Camargo, Pereira and Scarpin, (2020) compared fast fashion and emerging ultra-fast fashion, which refers to online stores and a focus on social media, to understand the differences in their supply chain management. The authors reported that the new fast fashion trend prevents excess inventory, works with local manufactures and uses a set of lean and agile strategies (see Table 2 for details). On the contrary to fast fashion’s poor stickiness to sustainable consumption, ultra fashion is likely to make customers closer to their preferred clothes, allowing practising ethical purchasing behaviours (Camargo, Pereira and Scarpin, 2020). However, the other side of this trend is even faster production rates and greater overconsumption. These results can be supplemented by the findings of Chang and Jai (2015), proposing that corporate social responsibility of fast fashion retailers can be achieved via proper positioning that prioritises a positive impact on society. The use of the between-subject Web experiment, allowed the authors to find that corporate social responsibility correlates with the intentions of customers to buy clothes, along with brand equity and price value.

Reuse and recycle trends compose one more area of impact fast fashion retailers made on their consumers. The online consumer interviews (Owela) with 83 participants was conducted by Vehmas et al. (2018) with the purpose of examining the changes in customers’ perceptions regarding circular clothing (Table 2). It was discovered that the offers of sustainable clothing lines find responses and activity from consumers, who ask for more information about circular products. Therefore, communication of these issues should be timely and comprehensive, including all the aspects that are of interest for target audiences (Cook and Yurchisin, 2017; Chang and Fan, 2017). In general, research on the impact of companies on customers’ views of recycled clothes is limited. The majority of studies lack the identification of customers being interviewed, while some of them included college students and different age consumers. Therefore, the insights provided in this stream can be used by scholars to conduct further studies for addressing the existing gaps.

Table 2. Impact of Fast Fashion Industry on Changing Consumer Preferences and Intentions

Study Context Purpose Methodology Findings
Camargo, Pereira and Scarpin (2020) emergence of new start-ups differences between fast and
ultra-fast fashion supply chain management
document analysis and in-depth interviews Ultra-fast fashion uses local manufacturing and avoids excess inventory
Chang and Jai (2015) positioning strategy fast fashion retailers’ strategies between-subject Web experiment purchase rates are impacted by perceived corporate social
responsibility (CSR)
Gabrielli, Baghi and Codeluppi (2013) fast fashion consumption trends Customers’ standpoint focus groups consumer-based approach promotes customer understanding
Kim, Park and Glovinsky, (2018) customer involvement emotional connection and brand loyalty focus group interview relational benefits of customers involvement in product development
Miller (2013) customer perspective customers’ pleasure-seeking activities online naturalistic inquiry ephemeral fashions and uniqueness are valued
Mrad et al.(2020) brand addiction motives and outcomes of brand addiction interviews interpersonal relationships and financial issues
Payne (2016) Australian mass market fast fashion inspiration sources interviews with fashion designers consensus and embodiment
Shen, Choi and Chow (2017) brand loyalty co-branding with luxury brands analytical model merges improve performance effectiveness
Su and Chang (2018) brand loyalty fast fashion impact on brand loyalty structural equation
modelling
perceived value, brand awareness and
brand uniqueness
Vehmas et al.(2018) consumer views circular clothing attitudes consumer interviews (Owela) increase in sustainable consumption
Zarley Watson and Yan (2013) decision processes fast fashion and slow fashion consumers focus groups and
interviews
purchase and post-purchase stages; utilitarianism, self-image congruence

Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion’s Negative Environmental imprint

The industry of fast fashion is one of the largest sectors that make a significant negative environmental imprint (Belzagui et al., 2019). The studies by Haseeb et al. (2020) and Zamani et al. (2015) point to the enormous resource consumption and toxic production processes that are the main environmental concerns. In turn, Mukherjee (2015) adds that greenhouse gas emissions impact the air pollution since synthetic textiles are made of polyester and other products. The production of clothing is extremely damaging to the environment. The share of light industry in CO2 emissions is higher than that of aviation and shipping combined (Mukherjee, 2015). Over the past 15 years, fast fashion apparel sales worldwide have doubled, while their average life has dropped dramatically (Haseeb et al., 2020). The textile industry produces over a billion tonnes of CO2 annually, more than all international air travel and shipping (Shirvanimoghaddam et al., 2020).

Considering that environmental pollution is a critical problem, fast fashion businesses should contribute to its minimization. It should be added that there is the pollution of the oceans by microplastics from textile fibres and the use of toxic chemicals. Polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic materials are forms of plastic that make up 60% of the material from which clothes are made (Shirvanimoghaddam et al., 2020). These fibres contribute to the subtle but pervasive plastic pollution of the ocean. A single load of laundry can drain hundreds of thousands of textile from our clothing into the plumbing (Arrigo, 2020). It is a global problem: synthetic fabrics are common in developing countries that do not have powerful treatment facilities; the garments will take hundreds of years to completely decompose.

Ways Businesses Can Improve Their Impact

These commitments indicate that major fashion manufacturers have realised that sustainability is in trend today. However, this is not just a marketing issue as it also concerns production and after use processes. Ganesan et al. (2015) see the transition to sustainable production as inevitable. The global demand for clothing is constantly growing – not least due to the emerging Asian and African markets. At the current rate of apparel production, by 2050, its volume is expected to triple (Arrigo, 2020). According to a study by Mair, Druckman and Jackson (2016), if the textile industry does not change, the environmental impact will be catastrophic. The solution to the problem is waste-free production: one of the actively explored ways to make the garment industry greener is the so-called circular economy. It suggests that the resources used in production should be used as long as possible. Ideally, such a scheme should only work with renewable energy sources. In terms of ethical consumption, Joung and Park‐Poaps (2013) note that donation and resale are the most widely cited opportunities.

Despite the fact that the governments of different countries are already passing laws prohibiting the use of plastic bags and disposable plastic items, the problem is far from being solved. The main result is that the problem has become widely discussed, and the environmental agenda has become relevant not only for small eco-brands, but also for companies of the higher level, such as Zara, Nike, H&M and others (Bick, Halsey and Ekenga, 2018). In contrast to the fast fashion that has emerged in recent decades, slow fashion is rapidly developing – a movement that calls for observing the above rules. The term was coined by the writer and designer Keith Fletcher. The movement rejects mass production and only recognises things that are individually handcrafted. The followers of slow fashion prefer to buy vintage items, boycott the mass market and choose universal clothes that will be stylish regardless of fashion trends and the latest design solutions (Akhter, Rutherford and Chu, 2017; Park and Lin, 2018). The representatives of this direction learn to sew, repair and recycle clothes on their own to buy less.

Speaking of the environmental impact of fast fashion, it is also important to pay attention to the position of workers in textile plants. To reduce costs, fast fashion companies are outsourcing their production to economically developing countries, where labour is much cheaper, and related policies are almost absent (Iran and Schrader, 2017; Niinimäki et al., 2020). Repeated scandals due to poor working conditions, disregard for basic safety measures, low wages, workplace violence and the use of child labour created discussions. For example, in 2013, the explosion occurred at a textile factory on the outskirts of the Bangladesh capital – Dhaka. According to Taplin (2014), citing information from the detailed content analysis of reports, a gas boiler exploded. At the time of the collapse, there were several hundred people inside the building, including workers of the textile factory. The inadequate approach to workers is also mentioned by Mair, Druckman and Jackson (2016), who used a sub-system global multi-regional input output analysis and found that Western European workers have low wages. These studies demonstrated that not only environmental impact but also social footprint of textile factories is negative.

Table 3. Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Study Context Purpose Methodology Findings
Arrigo (2020) low-cost locations global sourcing strategies content analysis of their reports retailers pay attention to sustainability
Ganesan et al.(2015) energy costs energy saving potential mathematical Model textile industry energy
reduction
Haseeb et al. (2020 Textile industry carbon dioxide emissions Quantile-on-Quantile
(QQ) regression
causality between T&C and CO2 emission
Joung and Park‐Poaps (2013) recycling options clothing disposal behaviours survey questionnaires resale and donation – environmental concerns
Mair, Druckman and Jackson (2016) increasing cheaper textiles environmental impact and wage rate sub-system global multi-regional input output analysis carbon reduction; low wages in Western Europe
Mukherjee (2015) increased waste pollution areas content analysis of their reports Sustainable fashion needed
Park and Lin (2018) call for ethical clothing purchase intention and experience survey encourage sustainable consumption
Shirvanimoghaddam et al.(2020) environmental concerns circular fashion and recycling approaches content analysis textile recycling methods
Taplin (2014) worker issues clothing factory tragedy in Bangladesh incident analysis improper policies
Zamani et al.(2015) carbon footprint recycling techniques inventory analysis recycling is effective

Summary

Thus, the literature review revealed that today, customers’ purchasing preferences are driven by a range of factors, including hedonism, sustainable consumption, social image, and so on. In their turn, businesses try to meet and anticipate their customers’ expectations to enrich their experience. Since the industry of fast fashion tends to grow, and its’ environmental impact is adverse, there is a need to formulate recommendations for different stakeholders, such as managers, designers, policy makers, and researchers.

Analysis and Critical Discussion (Implications)

Marketers and Managers

The studies included in this literature review allow for clarifying practical implications for managers who work directly with customers. Speaking more precisely, the motivations and barriers of consumers to follow green purchasing should be understood by companies who decided to shift towards sustainability. Even though the prices of ethical clothing can be higher, it is important to explain to customers that they are more durable and contributing to the environment protection. In this connection, proper sustainability communication is the key recommendation for managers and leaders of fast fashion retails (Wiederhold and Martinez, 2018). For example, the value of unique designs, natural materials and health benefits can be included in the appealing message to customers. In other words, the creation of emotional benefits and application of appropriate communication strategy should be prioritised. Considering the growing digitalisation of society, social media, blogs and other online means of communication can be implemented.

Speaking of the implications that are related to the environment, one should state that manufacturers must take responsibility for the entire supply chain and control the initial stages. Bly, Gwozdz, and Reisch (2015) argue that fast fashion has affected the economies of developing countries, giving people jobs but violating workers’ rights. It is important to do the best to use less water in the production process and definitely share with all our best practices. The ambitious package of solutions also includes a variety of measures to set new standards for manufacturers of fabrics, washing machines and detergents and to stimulate a culture of less consumption through taxes and increased liability of manufacturers and sellers of clothing (Reimers, Magnuson and Chao, 2016). The next direction is to extend the life of clothes through the mutual exchange of used clothing on special websites or the return of old clothing in the store in exchange for a new one at a discount.

To meet the demands of those customers who want to look fashionable and purchase clothes at an affordable price, retailers can change their business models towards ultra-fast fashion. The presentation to local manufacturers and avoidance of excess inventory are likely to be useful to make their products more sustainable to prevent environmental pollution. In addition, such a decision can increase a brand’s image and strengthen customer loyalty (Joung and Park‐Poaps, 2013). For new start-ups, it is also a promising way to use their limited resources and handle the challenges of the highly competitive fashion industry. For practitioners, it seems to be critical to carefully adopt proper positioning strategies so that their customers would be involved. For example, they can be engaged in the process of product creation that is achievable by requesting feedback regarding the existing products and expected new clothing lines (Park and Lin, 2018). The appeal to customers’ creativity and imagination can also be viewed by managers as the potential features to implement in their positioning strategies.

The evidence on brand addiction and customer involvement shows that managers need to pay attention to building trustful relationships with customers. Different communication channels can be applied to reach them, and interact to interpret their needs and design products accordingly, also using inspiration sources such as designers and luxury brands. The cooperation of fast fashion and luxury fashion retailers is another recommendation for practitioners to take into account to create unique products with several price and form options (Shen, Choi and Chow, 2017). As for management education, the analysis of the current cooperation’s can be included in the curriculum so that students better understood this promising strategy. Studies conducted showed that the attitude to fast fashion among the majority of consumers, especially young ones, is ambiguous. For now, most consumers are not ready to give up the benefits of fast fashion, but the attitude towards fashion is becoming more and more conscious.

Fast Fashion Designers

It should be noted that consumer demand is starting to shift, with more focus on products that are less dependent on natural resources. Designers should increasingly respond to this to become an active part of the market. Fashion can be more sustainable, and people in the supply chain can be fairly rewarded (Hill and Lee, 2015). To create this positive effect, it is vital to rethink how design is created, resources are obtained, production operates, and clothing is consumed and distributed. Designers are the source of inspiration for every model they create, and the ethics and sustainability of a product ultimately depend on themselves. In other words, designers and retailers can have a positive impact on the fast fashion industry by sourcing and selecting materials, using different design techniques and choosing a place of production. They can even influence customers at the stage of clothing use, as well as the final disposal methods (Lundblad and Davies, 2015). By looking at the environmental aspect of the production, distribution and post-consumption, it is possible to make environmental protection and sustainability the great sources of inspiration.

Policy Makers

There are calls for the governments to invest in sustainable fashion and develop standards for the durability of garments, and for manufacturers, to become more responsible. According to Gabrielli, Baghi and Codeluppi (2013), consumers need to reconsider their approach to buying clothes to perceive fashion and clothing more as a functional product than as entertainment, and be willing to pay a higher price for clothing, which takes into account the impact of fashion on the environment. At the same time, attention should be paid to the employees working in textile factories to ensure that they have appropriate wages and safe working environments (Druckman and Jackson, 2016). In the stores, managers should be attentive to customers’ requests, being ready to provide information about the place of production and fabrics used in the clothes.

Researchers

Future research is necessary to explore the perceptions and existing knowledge of consumers with the aim of designing appropriate product sustainability communication strategies. One of the extensive areas to explore refers to the extent to which customers are ready to pay more for ethical clothes in the fast fashion market. For those who value fashionable apparel more than a sustainable approach to society, certain measures should be researched to show them that their contribution is critical. In a larger context, overconsumption should be discussed regarding its current amount and expected consequences, as well as the ways to stop unconscious purchasing behaviours. In this connection, there is a need to create the cooperation across countries, governments and companies since only a comprehensive approach can help in resolving the problem of the adverse impact of fast fashion on society and environment.

Conclusions

To conclude, it should be emphasised that this literature review was expected to integrate the relevant evidence and present it to the readers to identify implications for practitioners, policymakers and management education. The use of sustainable fast fashion clothing is not only a tendency that wearing dresses made from recycled materials becomes fashionable and prestigious. Instead, the concept of ethical clothing is slowly but surely shifting towards the concern for the health of the planet and humanity, which is expressed in the increasing interest regarding the protection of the environment. Thus, despite fast fashion overconsumption, a more conscious culture of buying clothes is beginning to form across the world, and a course has been taken to ensure that the concept of fast fashion includes designs as a more meaningful, responsible and environmentally friendly approach to clothing.

The coverage of the literature that is provided in this report is appropriate since it includes more than 30 empirical articles. All of the sources were thoroughly studied and sorted according to their pertinence to the topic being discussed, research methods and high quality. Data collection and analysis are the integral parts of all the articles included. The sample sizes are the weaknesses of this review since many articles focused on a limited number of participants and reports. As for the geographical area of coverage, such countries as Sweden, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Vietnam and Western Europe in general were mentioned. Thus, this review seems to contribute to a wider body of evidence by presenting a detailed review of available academic literature.

Learning Statement

While working on this narrative literature review, I have learned that it is a complex process that requires collecting relevant sources and synthesising them to achieve the stated goal. For this project, the topic of fast fashion’s impact on society was chosen, with such streams as ethical consumption, the impact on customer preferences and intentions and environmental influence. The most challenging issue was related to reviewing the articles and revealing common features, difference and gaps existing in the literature.

A review of sources and literature always began with a description of the relevance of the studied problem. I tried to describe the existing views on the problem, the main representatives and their achievements. The bulk of the review of the literature was created based on publications containing direct research materials. In accordance with the guidelines, the review started with a brief description of the main results and conclusions drawn in the articles, which are applicable to the research topic. I understood that it is not necessary to reproduce all the data in its entirety (tables, conclusions and so on) as it is better to restrict to only individual indicators, facts, results that have the greatest value for research.

The review of sources and literature was analytical, which allowed making the presentation of facts critical, but without personal judgements. In this connection, the literature analysis was established around the problem, not articles. In carrying out the analysis, I emphasised both the similarity in the practical results, along with discrepancies and insufficient coverage of certain issues. Analysing the sources, it is required to identify weaknesses in the works, finding previously unexplored aspects. At the same time, I did not state my vision of the issue since the central task of analysing the literature is to identify problems and familiarise with the present state of the research area.

The use of the tabular analysis was the main issue that contributed to the structuration and organisation of information from the review articles. It is possible to suggest that without this strategy, I would probably spend much more time and efforts to reveal key information and compare it across the articles. Therefore, I believe that the use of this analysis strategy was quite important for the successful completion of this report. Since the tables were created for all three streams, it allowed for keeping data clear and easily finding the key trends of the literature. The analysis and interpretation of the studies were directed towards discussing the current significance of outcomes and their relation to the future research needs.

Considering that there were a lot of articles, the coordination of ideas was the difficulty I faced. The guidelines regarding the content of the narrative literature review imply no specific issues to be included, which made it quite challenging to decide personally. I was confused to start the review as I though it can be incorrect. However, my critical thinking skills allowed me to detect differences and similarities across the articles, which can be found in the report. I have learned that it is critical to constantly review the results of the tabular analysis to remain focused on the ideas being discussed.

After completing this report, I can state that I would organise the process of writing the narrative literature review differently. Although it was not required by the instructions, I would probably identify the connections across the three streams to reflect on the interdependent nature of the topics. In my point of view, such an approach would promote greater awareness of how fast fashion impacts society across various dimensions. I will do my best to make my future literature review would be more elaborate and detailed. I believe that this experience is of great importance for practising organisation, critical review and argumentation skills. Thus, this assignment was significant for me to practice my skills and apply my theoretical knowledge in practice.

Along with my personal benefits that are mentioned above, this narrative literature review will be useful for other students and scholars, who can employ its result to determine the areas for further research. Based on this report, it is possible to understand that the fast fashion retailers should change their business models to make production and clothing sustainable and ethical. The ways to achieve this goal, related challenges and the attitudes of customers are the potential gaps to study. In addition, my future employer seems to benefit as well since this research shows my analytic and critical thinking skills that I can apply in my work.

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