Fast Fashion: What Can We Learn From Fast Food
I had a conversation today which sparked an idea, can the fashion industry learn something from the burger industry? Sounds a little crazy I know so bear with me.
Fast fashion is broken. Online and high street retailers sell clothes to consumers at dirt cheap prices. The only way clothing can be created at such low costs is for manufacturers to cut massive corners by paying workers less than minimum wage and operating in ways which are harmful to the environment. But do people only buy clothes because they are cheap? And would consumers ever pay more for a piece of clothing if they know where it has come from and that it has been made in a responsible way?
I started to think about comparable industries that work on different models and this got me thinking about the food industry and in particular, burgers. It is a similar(ish) experience, where by consumers buy goods from a multimillion pound industries for an instant fix. Everyone knows that McDonalds is the go to place a cheap burger, on the other end of the scale is perhaps restaurants like Gourmet Burger Kitchen or Byron burger, both very successful business who focus on good quality ingredients and charge a higher price for doing so. I would hazard a guess that there is probably a lot of cross over between the target markets for McDonald’s and for Byron Burger despite one offering a much more expensive product than the other. I think that says something about consumer culture, if the same customer will pay more for something of a better quality if it is accessible to them. People don’t always want to buy something because it is the cheapest.
In fact in recent years McDonalds has made huge changes to it marketing and their advertising now focuses on the quality of meat they use, where it has come from and the reduced environmental impact of changes they are making to their business model. They are now using quality and the source of the ‘product’ as a selling point. So is this in response to consumers questioning the industry? Has this change in McDonald’s image been driven by consumers wanting to know where their product has come from and what is in it? It seems that the industry has changed, even if just a little, in response to a demand for transparency and quality.
So could fashion learn something from burgers? By no means am I saying that the meat industry is good, there is overwhelming evidence that meat production causes vast environmental issues and as a society we need to reduce the amount of meat we consume. BUT in this example, perhaps burgers show us something about consumer behaviour and this gives me a little hope for the future of the fashion industry. People often ask the question, is sustainable fashion financially viable? As the production cost is more (due to you know, paying workers a minimum wage and such things), will consumers actually pay more for a product they know has been made in a considered and ethical way. Or at the very least they know at bit more about where it came from. The success of gourmet burger kitchen makes me think, yes perhaps they will.