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Fashion, Generative AI, and Sustainability: P1

Fashion, Generative AI, and Sustainability: P1

Generative AI is far more than a tool for predicting trends and improving supply chain management. AI is the corner stone of sustainability in fashion.

Generative AI and Fashion’s sustainability problem

Due to the high demand for fast fashion and increasing fashion market, global sustainability in fashion is emerging on the forefront of consumer consideration. The hugely influential fashion industry has a value of 2.5 trillion globally per year. The sustainability issues around fashion arise from the tendency to discard clothing products quickly and the environmental impact of creating or disposing of these garments. 

The massive fashion industry has a huge environmental cost. The industry accounts for around 10% of all human related carbon emissions on earth, a staggering number for a small slice of all retail and commerce. Additionally, the industry is responsible for around 1/5th of all plastics produced every year. Unfortunately, even after all of the environmental costs of. Producing fashion, much of it is discarded. Some estimates go so far as saying that 85% of fashion textiles are discarded annually. 

So, what do consumers think about sustainable fashion?

Well, the answer is a little complicated. Consumer attitudes towards fashions sustainability should be examined in two ways. First, the feelings of consumers and their attitudes towards sustainability and environmental awareness. Second, the buying habits of consumers, both those who express the importance of sustainability and those that do not. 

Studies show that consumers increasingly think about the sustainability of fashion and the products that they buy. Several studies reflect this trend. First, Mckinsey found that 67% of customers factor the use of sustainable materials into their purchase decisions. First Insight inc found that “73% of consumers under the age of 22 are willing to pay more for sustainable products“. These two studies show us that consumers, especially younger consumers are considering the sustainability of their products and would theoretically pay more money for these sustainable products. Further supporting this trend, the Economic Intelligence Unit found a 71% rise in search popularity for sustainable goods in the five years leading up to 2021. 

Are customers changing their behaviors?

While some consumer insiders insist that the sustainable shift is inevitable, the movement is fighting against some damaging trends. First, fast fashion- inexpensive clothes rapidly mass produced in response to trends- is continuing to increase. According to Statista, the size of the global apparel industry is around 1.53 trillion.

In addition to the mass purchase and discarding of these products, retail returns are a non-negligible factor in damaging fashion sustainability. Return rates in retail varies depending on products sold and whether they were sold online or in person. The average return rate for in person stores is around 5-10% whereas the return rate for online stores can reach as high as 40%. While this burn and churn approach to fashion is damaging to the environment, it also causes financial difficulties for retailers. Companies loose money to return fraud every year. To learn more about how AI can be used in the fashion space to discourage counterfeiting and fraud, click here!

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