The fashion industry has long been criticized for its detrimental impact on the environment, contributing significantly to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. With the fashion industry responsible for about 20% of global wastewater and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union (EU) is taking steps to address this issue. However, while the EU aims to transform the fashion industry’s damaging practices, the future of fast fashion brands like Shein remains uncertain.
While a growing number of consumers, particularly influenced by environmentally-conscious Gen Z, express a desire for more sustainable clothing options, the EU’s vision may be met with challenges. Notably, industry leaders like Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, and ASOS have experienced profit declines, but Zara and H&M have reported significant gains. Shein, despite copyright disputes and controversies, maintains its popularity among customers seeking affordable and trendy clothing.
Shein’s ability to consistently introduce 6,000 new items to its website daily underscores the enduring appeal of fast fashion. This suggests that the concept of quick, disposable fashion still holds sway.
The EU, however, remains optimistic that change is possible. Recently, the EU adopted recommendations for a more sustainable clothing strategy, advocating for clothing that is more durable, repairable, and recyclable. They also endorsed regulations promoting ethical production practices that prioritize human rights, social responsibility, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability throughout the supply chain.
MEP Delara Burkhardt emphasizes that consumer actions alone cannot fully reform the global textile sector. She argues that self-regulation within the market could perpetuate the exploitative practices of fast fashion. Instead, Burkhardt contends that the EU should legally compel manufacturers and large fashion companies to adopt more sustainable practices.
While the proposed changes are transformative in theory, concerns persist about the effectiveness of these regulations on non-European countries. Countries like Chile’s Atacama Desert and African nations such as Ghana and Kenya bear the brunt of the world’s textile waste, highlighting the global implications of fashion’s wasteful practices.
Ultimately, the fate of fast fashion brands like Shein hinges on a complex interplay of consumer preferences, industry trends, and regulatory efforts. While the EU’s vision for a more sustainable fashion future is ambitious, the full impact of these initiatives remains to be seen, and the influence of fast fashion is far from fading.