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The impact of fast fashion, consumer behaviour and fashion brand communication on sustainability.

Hatley, Noelle (2021) The impact of fast fashion, consumer behaviour and fashion brand communication on sustainability. Masters thesis (Other), Manchester Metropolitan University, Masters by Research.

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Abstract

The fashion industry is globally important in terms of its financial contribution and the number of people it employs. Its negative impact on the environment and world poverty through inadequate sustainable practices are equally significant. Fast or ‘disposable’ fashion has exacerbated the phenomenon of selling masses of cheap clothes designed to be worn a handful of times. Brands such as H & M, ASOS and Zara have successfully exploited this trend. Although young people - the main fast fashion consumers - are becoming increasingly interested in sustainability, they do not appear to apply this to their fashion purchases. This research develops understanding of the motivation behind young peoples’ fashion consumption and interest in the provenance of their clothes, and examines the extent to which mainstream fast fashion brands are reacting to an increased societal interest in sustainability. Crucially, it examines the evolving relationship between the two parties. In order to achieve the aims of the study, data from an online survey representing the views of female fast fashion consumers (18-24) in the UK was analysed to identify what drives them towards constant fashion purchasing, and the extent to which fast fashion satisfies this. It explores their need to match societal ideas of beauty portrayed through digital channels, the influence of social media and their relationship with fashion brands. The case studies on the three most popular fast fashion brands, identified from the survey (ASOS, Topshop and Zara) revealed how digital technology has provided an unprecedented and direct access to their consumers. Whilst there are examples such as Patagonia and M & S using web sites and social media to inform their customers about sustainable initiatives, fast fashion brands are largely exploiting them purely as selling platforms. The survey revealed that fast fashion customers want what fast fashion brands offer, but they would also like them to be sustainable. The case study highlighted examples where customers challenged brand social media posts about sustainable practice, confirming their significant role in the relationship and in sustainable progress in the fashion industry. The brands’ continued success depends on listening and re-acting to their customers. Newig et al., analytical framework (2013) provides theory about the flow, function and effectiveness of communication in relation to sustainable goals, and is used to develop guidelines for fast fashion brands to educate their consumers about sustainability. The guidelines will reflect young consumers’ use of digital channels for shopping and communication and their interest in fashion and sustainability.

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