India’s fashion e-commerce boom
Fast fashion giants face environmental backlash
September 22, 2021
With a combination of a rapid turnover of the latest trends, affordable prices and unmatched convenience, online shopping apps are poised to conquer the fashion industry in India. However, environmentalists are concerned about the impact of such large-scale e-commerce.
Over the past decade, e-commerce has transformed the business landscape around the world, recently driven by the almost complete shift to online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although many fashion retailers, even strong and established brands like Zara, have seen their revenues decline, digital innovation and changes in consumer habits have ensured a major market recovery. Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, a report from the technology platform Unicommerce found that the online fashion industry in India grew by 45 pc in the fiscal year from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. , compared to the previous year.
While sites like Ajio, owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, and Myntra.com, a subsidiary of Flipkart, owned by Walmart, India’s largest e-commerce player, have their share of loyal following, the giants of the online fashion, in particular Chinese companies like Club Factory and Shein have made great strides in the Indian fashion market which focuses specifically on targeting young women. Shein first arrived in India in 2018 and took 5 million orders in just one year, grossing $ 10 billion globally in 2020.
When the Nanjin-based platform was banned in India in 2020 alongside 58 other Chinese apps amid border tensions with China, the news disappointed thousands of young girls who make up the bulk of the consumer base. apps like Shein. His return to India in July via Amazon, a strategic move to bypass the ban and reach out to an even larger user base, was an event much talked about on social media, especially among young Indians. and Instagram influencers who rely on showing off the latest fashions to expand their audience.
“I am really very happy that he came back to India. I’m obsessed with Shein and think it’s a really cheap way to stay on trend because I don’t like repeating outfits as I use a lot of them for unique Instagram photos. When it was banned, I had a hard time finding clothes that I liked at the same price and the same look, ”says Sakshi Jain, a student in Delhi. India Media Group.
The main reasons for the growing popularity of these platforms are competitive prices, deep discounts and true to its nickname of “fast fashion”, its ability to create and release the latest styles on demand.
“The size options, the designs, are always better online than in store and there are just more pieces available in general. Zara’s clothes are expensive and they often have quite limited collections, and while the quality is better, since a lot of clothes won’t be repeated often and won’t be repeated after a year anyway, this didn’t. not much importance. The best part is, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a trendy outfit, ”Jain adds.
Jain also explains that shopping online has its downsides, with many customers complaining about fraudulent photos that show completely different colors or faulty size issues. However, she adds, even the return of the clothes is just a click away, as many of these apps offer free pick-up and return services in India.
Adverse effects of fast fashion
While brands like Zara and H&M release around 16-24 collections each year, these new age shopping apps are launching new collections even faster than old trends run out, with tops and dresses made from the opposite fibers. ethical and costing less than 1000 INR or even 500 INR.
But not everyone is in love with these fast fashion apps. Although they can offer good deals to consumers, the rapid turnover and short lifespan of these garments comes at a significant cost to the environment, environmental activists say. This rapid turnover of clothing has an extremely negative effect on the environment, with most clothing ending up in landfills, and the textile industry as a whole being responsible for 10% of the world’s annual carbon emissions. In fact, Shein’s return, while welcomed by many consumers, has also sparked a lot of backlash from buyers and eco-conscious environmentalists, who have pressured these brands to switch to more ethical and ecological manufacturing materials.
“I think it was a bad decision to bring him back. Obviously, from a business perspective, it’s a huge advantage for a business to tap into a market as large as India, but from an environmental perspective, all of these garments are largely based on polyester and lead to huge microplastics pollution and carbon emissions, especially with the poor waste treatment system in India, ”says Anya Trivedi, a 26-year-old partner at a sustainability consultancy firm, specializing in environmental sciences and business.
Microplastics released from clothing are not as noticeable as pollution from large plastics like water bottles and plastic packaging, but water treatment plants leave as much as 40pc of synthetic microfibers in them. they receive discarded clothes and even laundry in the lakes and an estimated 1.4 trillion plastic fibers in the ocean. Ingestion of these has catastrophic effects on marine life and even humans. Globally, the fashion industry is responsible for 20 pc of wastewater.
To combat this, Indian designers have introduced sustainable fashion e-commerce, with brands like B Label focusing on agriculture and a sustainable lifestyle with hemp as the main material for making everyone’s clothes. the days, and No Nasties, an organic fashion brand that offers a wide range of vegan clothing created from 100 pc organic cotton in a fair trade factory. These brands have seen slow but steady growth due to the surge in awareness and enthusiasts of climate change among young Indians, often using ordinary Indians on social media to promote their clothes to foster an aura of relativity and inclusiveness. But even with innovative designs and strategic advertising, they can struggle to keep up with the fashion e-commerce giants.
“I think the argument people make as to why you shouldn’t be so anti-fast fashion is because not everyone can afford to shop in more expensive places. But while that may be true, I don’t think they make up a large part of their consumer base because these brands don’t exactly target low-income families. They are simply targeting people who want new clothes quickly. But sustainable online shopping sites allow you to wear more durable pieces that last, and you can tailor them to your own style even if you don’t subscribe to the latest trends, ”says Trivedi.
Fast or slow, the online fashion industry will undoubtedly continue to grow exponentially. According to the IBEF, the Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow from $ 46.2 billion in 2020 to $ 111.40 billion by 2025, largely led by giants such as Flipkart and Amazon. Ultimately, it may be up to consumers whether the current e-commerce giants will continue to overtake their smaller local counterparts, or whether they will be forced to change some of their controversial and counter-productive manufacturing processes. ethics.