Fast Fashion Legal Issues

Fast Fashion Legal Issues

Trend-based: As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of fast fashion retailers offer trend-based clothing and accessories, especially those that come from the latest runway collections at any given time. Because of the speed of manufacturing, fast fashion retailers are able to get their clothing and accessories, which are usually line-by-line copies of designer products, to stores long before the actual designer. “Fast fashion is a threat because its logic is based on copying the designs of high-end producers and spreading them quickly – sometimes even before high-end products based on a complicated and high-quality supply chain are distributed. As such, it leverages the total investment in style by the design departments of high-end producers. (US News). In the United States, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Fashion Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change Act (“FABRIC Act”) in 2022. 30Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change Act, p. 4213, 117th Cong. (2022). The main provisions are: (1) the establishment by the Department of Labour of a National Registry of the Garment Industry; (2) introduce new requirements for fashion brands and retailers, as well as manufacturing partners, to jointly be liable for wage violations in the workplace; and 3) the abolition of piecework for garment workers in the United States.31Id. In addition, the FABRIC Act would introduce a forty million dollar domestic support program and thirty percent tax credits for apparel manufacturers setting up in the United States, creating incentives for strict regulation of the fashion industry.32 India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey, among others, have become popular places for buying fast fashion clothing and accessories. In these countries, however, China`s sophisticated production infrastructure is largely lacking.

For Maxine Bédat, co-founder of Zady: “Low costs mean low regulation. The governments of today`s textile-producing countries have little control over what happens in their factories. (CNBC). With money likely coming from cheap production costs, it`s clear that fines don`t stop fast fashion companies from continuing their unethical practices. While serial non-compliance with fashion law could result in a number of hefty fines, it is precisely this aspect that could encourage brands to misrepresent their practices – previous cases have shown that fast fashion companies do not hesitate to lie for profit. “The changing dynamics of the fashion industry have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality and speed to market, key strategies to maintain a profitable position in an increasingly demanding market.” (ResearchGate). Fast fashion retailers are responding and fueling this demand by “marketing clothing that may not be made with the best high-quality materials to last a lifetime, but is cooler and much more affordable.” (CNN). Following the Rana Plaza building collapse, safety concerns are still widespread: “A recent inspection of garment factories in Bangladesh was carried out as part of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement between international unions IndustriALL and UNI Global, Bangladeshi unions and international brands and retailers. The inspection cycle took place in 1,106 factories used by 150 Western brands and identified 80,000 safety-related issues. Under the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, safety risks were identified at each factory inspected, with nearly 20 factories identified as being at increased risk of collapse and another 110 factories identified as significant structural problems. (TFL).

In a 2019 report, the UK Government`s Environmental Assessment Committee (“EAC”) published several sustainability recommendations specific to retail. The EAC suggested that tax reforms could reward retailers for reducing their carbon footprint, proposed a ban on landfilling unsold clothing and recommended laws requiring companies to conduct due diligence in their supply chains. While the government did not respond to any of the CEC`s recommendations, it nonetheless acknowledged the concerns raised and highlighted other measures proposed as part of its 25-year environmental plan and resource and waste strategy. But without legal changes, critics questioned whether that was enough. Ultimately, businesses and governments need to stay one step ahead of the environmental and human rights abuses associated with the fashion industry. Legislation and government funding are needed to regulate the industry and provide oversight to protect workers. However, individual consumers should re-evaluate their purchasing practices and make purchases that align with their values. Second-hand clothing and sustainable brands are interesting alternatives to fast fashion. Consumers, governments and businesses still have a long way to go, but progress and accountability are needed. In the UK, the fashion industry is largely self-regulated, with companies following industry codes as defined by the Retail Ombudsman. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which the United Kingdom is a member, has adopted global guidelines on supply chain due diligence. Similarly, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition – which has 250 members worldwide, including many major fashion companies – provides a framework for sustainable production against which companies can measure their social and environmental impact.

Meanwhile, many fashion brands are calling for the introduction of “eco-friendly” products, often in conjunction with third-party sustainability standards. Among other things, the European Commission will launch an EU strategy for sustainable textiles on 30 March. The strategy is a political commitment to address the problem and will be followed in the coming years by a number of concrete legislative proposals and other initiatives that could include product design rules, labelling, a ban on the destruction of goods and stricter rules on liability in the supply chain. In a report released earlier this year by the bipartisan House of Commons Environmental Review Panel (EAC), the apparel industry is described as the third largest manufacturing industry in the world. In the UK alone, more than 800,000 people are employed in retail, manufacturing, brands and fashion design, while UK consumers buy more clothes per person than in any other European country. But how well does the average consumer understand the environmental and social impact of the clothes they buy? What is the impact of our purchases on the environment? A person might choose to buy cotton clothing on the assumption that, since it is a natural fiber, it could have less negative impact on the environment. However, cotton production relies on the use of chemical pesticides and requires significant amounts of fresh water for processing. For example, according to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, an estimated $500 billion is lost each year due to under-utilisation of clothing, with 300,000 tonnes of garments ending up in landfills each year in the UK alone. In addition to endemic overconsumption, there are persistent problems related to ocean waste, production (which requires large amounts of water and pesticides), and the human impact of cheap labor and poor working conditions. Irish retailer Primark offers some of the lowest prices in the industry. The leading U.S. store offers a selection of jeans for $7, t-shirts for $3.50 and tank tops for just $1.60, prices lower than any fast fashion competitor, according to analysts.

The retailer offers prices 40% lower than H&M and 75% lower than Gap Factory, according to Goldman Sachs analysts. Emily Macintosh, head of textile policy at the European Environmental Bureau, said: “Setting fees for fashion brands must lead to real change in the industry.

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