On our second to last day in Milan, our group travelled to Cattolica University where we learned about sustainability in the fashion industry from a professor. Throughout her lecture, the professor touched on a variety of interesting concepts that I personally was not familiar with. She started her presentation discussing the different fashion business models that are becoming more and more popular as consumer’s spending habits are quickly changing and evolving with society’s technologies. The professor emphasized the fast fashion business model of brands like H&M and Zara that have started to emphasize trends in their clothing rather than the traditional seasons (spring/summer & fall/winter). The reason that big clothing brands are focusing more on trends compared to seasons is that consumers are becoming “globetrotters” and are traveling to locations with varying temperatures much more frequently than before. Furthermore, the professor explained how trends are changing much faster compared to what they used to be and fast fashion brands and now forced to rotate their inventory much more frequently. This situation makes brands buy a somewhat limited quantity for each of their stores so that they can continue to rotate their inventory frequently since customers are now visiting stores much more often (1-2 times each week depending on the accessibility of the store).
The professor then explained what goes into the process of firms designing these trends and planning their respective production processes. Often the process will start 2 years in advance where designers will pick the colors and yarns at different conventions often held in Paris or Milan. Then many months later is a textile convention and then follows the fashion show where the clothes are shown roughly six months before they are accessible to the public for mass consumption. This impact of fast fashion has also led to the democratization of fashion which essentially makes these fashionable pieces accessible to customers who might not usually be able to afford them. For me, it’s exciting to see brands like Zara and H&M offer high level fashion pieces at an affordable level (something I can appreciate giving that I am a college student).
With regards to the sustainability aspect of the fashion industry, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make a significant difference. Currently, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world behind the oil industry. This stat set off alarms in my head, I was shocked to hear that the fashion industry was so damaging and not just to the environment but also to those who are directly involved in the production of the clothes. Our professor explained how the fast fashion model causes much of this pollution due to the constant shipping of trendy clothing that is cycled through so frequently that stores continually need to cycle through and order new inventory. Some brands are much more direct about changing their harmful practices and have plans to either change their production process or use less harmful materials in their clothing.
With regards to My Current Attitude and Beliefs Towards Travel, I would say my outlook is quite positive! As the trip has been winding down (only one more day left in Italy) I have taken time to reflect on the wide variety of opportunities that this trip has afforded me. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the various steps of the supply chain for different fashion companies across Italy. Our group has seen firms that will start with the raw product and turn it into a good ready to be consumed right before our eyes. Going into this trip, I thought I had a solid idea as to how the fashion industry worked, after going on this trip I’m pleasantly surprised to say that I have become much more educated on how the process truly works. It is much more complex than I could have ever imagined with so many things happening behind the scenes that brands often do not feel the need to show. The language barrier has been much less difiicult to navigate compared to what I thought going into the trip. Many of the places our group visited had someone who could translate or speak english directly. Also, going out to eat has become a care free process as I can now navigate the menu with ease.