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Spot the Difference: Public Relations for Fast Fashion Vs. Sustainable Fashion

Published on October 21, 2021 at 6:16 p.m. by Evvy Lusco 

The terms “fast fashion” and “sustainable fashion” have been floating around the fashion industry for a while, but the question of how they differ with regard to public relations remains. Social media and corporate social responsibility seek to answer this question.

Defining sustainable and fast fashion
Gene Chang from Gene Chang Fashion PR is an entertainment media producer in film, fashion and luxury brand markets across the globe. “There are vast differences in obtaining clients that have sustainability, because we have a whole industry trying to create sustainability. I think the problem we have with sustainability is a definition problem,” Chang noted.

sustainable fashion in PR
Photo by Jess @ Harper Sunday on Unsplash

Chang stated that there is no major difference in public relations efforts related to fast fashion and sustainable fashion brands. “A firm is hired by a brand — the brand could be sustainable or unsustainable — but our job is to take the product, information and the photographs we are assigned and get it out to the appropriate media.” He also said that public relations is basically a communication firm between the brand and the public.

Chelsea Schroeder is an account coordinator at Fruchtman Marketing, an agency that specializes in jewelry marketing for both bridal and fashion industries. Schroeder is in charge of assigning and seeing each campaign from start to finish, communicating with clients and the brands they sell, and making sure everything is to the client’s preference.

Schroeder commented on the difference in communication efforts between fast fashion and sustainable fashion. “Personally, I believe they go hand in hand,” she said. “Trends are always going in and out of style. You have to have the proper people, influencers, communicators and companies that make these products and awareness to try to sell those products. There are certain styles that will never go out, and I definitely feel like the communication efforts with fast fashion and for those things that will never go out of style all kind of work together.”

Social media and the fashion industry
When asked if he believed social media played a role in spreading fast fashion, Chang said, “Social media is just a platform. It’s what we do with it. Social media includes newspapers, the radio and public speaking. When we talk about electronic social media, you have enhanced proliferation. You can reach millions of people. It’s all media. It’s what you do with that medium.”

fast fashion in public relations
Photo by Fernand De Canne on Unsplash

According to Riley Johnson’s recent article in an art, fashion and culture magazine, social media has directly affected the fashion industry. The instantaneousness of these platforms speeds up the trend cycles — making more sustainable pieces’ rise in the industry slower but longer-lasting. The trends that come in style more quickly, however, also go out of style faster, Riley noted.

Schroeder said the relationship between sustainable fashion and social media has made people more aware of sustainability. “I think the key piece for a brand and the sustainable fashion world is to be on social media,” she said. “They have to be good at being on social media and communicating the message of their brand image. As long as they can do that effectively, more people who want to shop sustainably will be more aware of their brand. Social media has to be strong to communicate to that younger audience who is looking to shop sustainably.”

She added that whether a brand is sustainable or promoting fast fashion, they all require public relations efforts. Furthermore, she said that the opposing ends of the fashion industry share similarities. “Fast fashion is just going to be quick sales or trendy for a season, yet the communication tactics for sustainable fashion are similar in terms of online and influencer tactics,” she explained.

Corporate social responsibility and the fashion industry

sustainable fashion in PR
Photo by Cherie Birkner on Unsplash

There can be no conversation about the fashion industry without mentioning corporate social responsibility. Consumers expect companies to operate in ways that promote awareness of social and environmental issues. In order to show consumers that their experiences are important to them, fashion brands must employ corporate social responsibility tools in their public relations efforts.

The negative publicity that comes with fast fashion affects brand image — consequently changing consumer purchasing behavior. Since 2018, keyword searches relating to sustainable fashion have considerably increased.

“I feel like companies need to be in the fast fashion industry a little, because if you aren’t on-trend, you may not be considered in-style,” Schroeder said. “That is a reflection of their sales. But at the same time, they need to be a brand that prioritizes quality. There is pressure to uphold the reputation of following trends but also making sustainable pieces. They are responsible for finding a way in between.”

The future of public relations in the fashion industry
Regarding the future of public relations for both ends of the fashion industry, Schroeder said, “I think the future of the fast fashion and sustainable fashion communications efforts will include a lot more affiliate marketing to create brand awareness. Influencers are on the rise. Whether through Instagram, TikTok or Facebook, I think that is the number one way people are finding out about products today.”

The fashion industry has considerable implications related to public relations. These implications include the anticipation of upcoming trends, the importance of developing relationships with media professionals, and the ability to continue building a positive image for the brand itself. The future of the fast and sustainable fashion industries will depend on the ever-changing demands of communication.

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