It is becoming harder to ignore the environmental cost of fast fashion. At Tahlo, we’ve thought a LOT about it and use what we call the Thee Concrete Boots - three systemic factors that we think work together to make fashion environmentally scary. They are:
1. The Gamble
Traditional fashion companies need to be a cross between a clairvoyant and the slickest of sales machines.
First they must predict the future - not only in terms of the trend of the day and how much we will embrace it (before it is saturated), but also influences like weather - is it going to be a hot summer or a cold winter? Will it be too warm for jackets this year? Will consumer confidence be positive?
The gamble extends beyond picking what the trend of the day is, but also how much to invest in quality fabric and craftsmanship. Is it worth making well-made winter jackets when we don’t know if we will even sell any at full price?
2. Quantities Beyond Demand
Manufacturing small quantities is very difficult to do in practice. We know, at Tahlo we’ve been laughed out of many a supplier meeting! Luckily we found an alternative, but for many brands The Gamble is compounded by the fact they have to produce a quantity that is "beyond demand" in order to get their item produced at all.
Sellers know they will have to discount, and in some cases dump product. But, the numbers are such that over-producing is the easiest (cheapest) option. (Unfortunately, this applies to many eco-friendly producers who are making efforts seek low impact alternatives but must produce quantities beyond demand to meet production thresholds.)
3. Making The Future
Once they’ve made The Gamble the fashion brands need to sell, sell, sell to make their predictions come true.
They need to make us feel "out of fashion" in the clothes we’re in so they can sell us the new styles.
They need us to think we live in The Arctic / The Bahamas so we buy into “the season”. Suddenly, wearing a tropical print playsuit in the shadowy concrete jungle where we live makes total sense - at least in that moment we decide to buy.
Of course, selling is part of business. The catch is that (fast) fashion companies need shorter and shorter cycles of obsolescence, and with that comes more and more waste. Combined with the first two concrete boots - large amounts of money tied up in large amounts of stock - and the sell becomes simultaneously desperate and irresistible.
As consumers, we’re in the drivers seat and vote with our dollars for the world we want.
At Tahlo we’re trying to tackle fashion’s Three Concrete Boots by developing a different business model. Producing goods once they have home gives us the freedom to operate in a totally different way, and without the concrete boots dragging us down.
Incidentally for many large brands they are de-risking the forecasting gamble by copying independent makers and designers who are having success with their product on instagram or marketplaces like Etsy. Grrrrr.
This post is also published on our Medium