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How Zara plans to make its fast fashion empire more sustainable

Last fall, at New York Fashion Week, tie-dye was absolutely everywhere: Everyone from Prada to Stella McCartney to Proenza Schouler sent models down the catwalk in hippie-inspired gowns and T-shirts. But for those of us who can’t afford to drop $2,000 on embroidered tie-dye gowns, Zara had our back. Zara’s 300 designers churn out 12,000 new designs every year and for the most fashion-forward pieces, it takes as little as six weeks to go from a sketch to a product on a shelf. But as the fashion industry moves toward more eco-friendly practices, it’s worth asking: Can fast fashion ever really be sustainable? Over the last few months, other fashion giants like Nike and Gap Inc. have made similar commitments to using more sustainable materials and cutting down on their carbon footprints. But here’s the thing: Trendy clothes have a short shelf life. Making each part of the business more sustainable could add up to massive decreases in carbon and plastic pollution. Yet nowhere in its announcement did Inditex address the sheer volume of clothes it produces, nor its model of selling fashion-forward clothes at a fraction of the price of designer brands.

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