INSA panel critiques ‘fast fashion’ on sustainability, other issues


By Haya Alyasin

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH  – Production of “fast fashion” has negative consequences on the environment and on those employed in the fashion industry’s supply chains, speakers said during the American University of Sharjah International Studies Student Association’s second Majlis, held online April 5.

Panelist Julia Carlow, part of the AUS Sustainability team who has worked in the fashion industry and offered an insider’s view of it, noted that much of it is based on a business model that emphasizes competitive pricing, with the assumption that many clothing items are disposable and frequently replaced.

This business model, she noted, is hard to change, adding that many brands achieve low cost for consumers by producing their products in developing countries with lower standards for environmental protection and labor rights.

The second panelist, fashion designer Haya Khalifa from Bahrain, spoke of her efforts as founder of Nesma Studio to create “sustainable fashion.” 

After discussing how the fashion industry works, and its impact on sustainability issues, she remarked that “Fast fashion is not free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”

Interviewed after the session, Carlow noted the issues involved are complex, require careful definition, and concern brands that are “aware of consumer critique, but are in a system that allows little room for fundamental changes.” 

The panel’s main message, she noted, “was that if you buy from existing brands, it’s [the purchase] likely not going to be sustainable. Given the prevailing business model, the most sustainable thing you can do is to buy fewer, good quality items that you will wear often and that will last you for many years.”