Is Adidas Fast Fashion, and is it a Sustainable Brand?

by jacky chou
Updated on

Adidas is the second biggest footwear brand after its arch-rival, Nike. It was founded in 1949 in Germany by Adolf Dassler. Adidas produces logo sweaters, sportswear, tees, Stan Smith sneakers, and more. So the question we want to address is, is Adidas fast fashion? Yes, Adidas is fast fashion, and we shall discuss the factors that make it so.

What Is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing designs based on the latest trends, like Adidas, which produces large volumes of clothes. These trends are powered by the internet, globalization, and technological innovations. The new fashion becomes famous hence forming a new market, and it has a shorter cycle as it grows fast and is consumed even faster.

Fast fashion clothing designs are quickly moved from the catwalk to stores. Previously, there were only four fashion trend seasons annually, which coincided with the four seasons.

Fashion trends

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However, at present, different trends are introduced more often, even up to three times a month, while others, like Adidas, take about 45 days before introducing new trends. Fast fashion makes impulse buying easy and affordable. This is because it encourages shoppers to buy more clothes to update their wardrobes to keep up with the changing trends.

Fast fashion brands offer apparel collections at more affordable prices, as they save money on other sections, including the production process, fabric quality, and even on the salaries of their workers.

Brief History of Fast Fashion

Before the Industrial Revolution, people made their clothes and repaired them when necessary. That was before the invention of the sewing machine, and fashion was slow.

Clothes were made for the individual and designed to last longer. This later changed when people started wearing clothes for style and not durability and other desirable features.

making clothes without the use of a sewing machine

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Fast fashion started with the mass production of low-quality clothes when the first sewing machine got patented. This was because the machine contributed to a rapid decrease in the price of clothes and an increase in the scale of clothing manufacture.

More functional styles and fabric restrictions that were made necessary by World War II led to increased standardized production for all clothing. After the war, middle-class consumers became accustomed to buying mass-produced clothing.

Fashion trends started moving faster with the invention of a sewing machine

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In the 1960s, fashion trends moved even faster as young people embraced cheaply made clothing to follow the new trends. This also helped them reject the sartorial traditions of the older generations.

The term fast fashion became official in 1990 when Zara accelerated their production, hence inspiring the New York Times to officiate it as fast fashion. Adidas followed this trend when it also started producing clothes seen on the catwalk and reacting to demand.

Although consumers want to make high-quality and more sustainable choices, fast fashion is still booming. Clothes are still being produced in large quantities and quicker than ever.

What Makes Adidas Brand Fast Fashion?

If you’re yet to come to terms with the fact that Adidas is a fast fashion brand, you may need this. Here, we look at the factors that make Adidas fast fashion.

    • They are quick to release clothes after seeing a trend on the catwalk or by social media influencers.

    • They produce clothes in large factories, and their workers are not paid fair wages.

    • They make their products in limited quantities, hence giving consumers the pressure to buy before they go out of stock.

    • Most products are made from cheap and poor-quality materials.

What Are the Effects of Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion, although many may not be aware, has numerous effects. Let’s check them out.

a) Increases Carbon footprint

The fast fashion industry has a disproportionately large carbon footprint, given its short lifespan. The fashion business contributes 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, which is more than all foreign travel and shipping combined.

pollution as a result of fast fashion

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It is mostly a result of the extensive transportation routes that textiles traverse from production to purchase to disposal. Each year, the manufacture of polyester alone produces over 700 million tons of greenhouse emissions.

As already mentioned, Adidas uses a lot of polyester in the production of its clothes. This means that it is among the major environmental polluters, which is another reason why it is fast fashion.

b) Leads to Water System Pollution

A mixture of toxic chemicals is used to dye cheap clothes. Denim production is the second largest freshwater polluter on the planet, and the textile industry pollutes approximately 70% of Asia’s lakes and rivers, leading to huge public health and ecological crisis.

How the textile industry releases hazardous chemicals into water bodies

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Adidas and other sportswear brands use extremely stretchable materials like polyester, which are major waste producers. Polyester sheds microfibers during cleaning, and these materials later land in the water system.

It increases plastic concentration hence disrupting marine food chains by killing plants and animals underwater. The use of unsustainable materials is one of the reasons Adidas is considered fast fashion.

c) Abuse of Human Rights

While fast fashion may be affordable in the store, somebody else is paying the entire cost. The exploitation of employees’ rights has been a pillar of the textile industry ever since Industrial Revolution.

fast fashion brands overwork their workers and offer little wages

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Today’s garment workers are put through long hours for little pay and frequently risk their safety. Poor construction caused the Bangladeshi factory Rana Plaza to collapse in 2013, killing 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500 more.

In the modern world, there are about 168 million textile laborers, including kids who have been taken out of school. This is another violation of human rights. How does Adidas fit into this? Well, it has been called out multiple times for paying its employees unfairly. Although it has received a lot of pressure from NGOs, the brand does not want to reveal how much the employees earn.

d) Greenwashing

Brands will often go out of their way to obscure their supply chain and manufacturing processes and try to establish a sustainable or even ethical reputation. According to a recent study, top fashion brands in the EU make up almost 60% of misleading eco-claims. Some fashion businesses may aim to create a feminist brand image, but they won’t discuss what efforts they are taking to safeguard the safety of their textile workers, where most are women.

e) Animal Cruelty

The fashion industry also harms animals. For example, although Adidas does not abuse exotic animals for their skin and fur, it uses kangaroo leather and down feathers. This practice leads to the mass killing of kangaroos and injuries to ducks.

Is Adidas a Sustainable Fashion Brand?

Adidas is not yet sustainable, but it’s working on that. It has pledged to use more sustainable practices by making its supply chain more eco-friendly. Adidas has vowed to use only recycled plastic from 2024 going forward.

To make this more realistic, Adidas has already partnered with Parley against plastic pollution. Parley is an organization that has been dedicated to cleaning ocean waste. This is one way of removing plastic from its supply chain.

Adidas uses recycled ocean plastic to make sneakers

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This fashion brand has been developing tools to minimize the release of microfibers into the environment. It is making products that are easier to recycle to eliminate waste.

However, this fashion giant only uses a small portion of sustainable materials like recycled polyester, recycled nylon, and organic cotton. Most of the products used are polluting synthetic petroleum-based fibers like nylon, spandex, polyester, acrylic, and polystyrene. Adidas also uses little man-made cellulosic fabrics and semi-synthetic fibers like modal, acetate, viscose, and lyocell.

Adidas fast fashion brand scored 69%which was awarded to them by the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index. This score was based on how much the fashion brand discloses about its social and environmental impacts, practices, and policies.

This sportswear brand uses wool, leather, and down feathers in manufacturing some of its clothes. It also does not use exotic animal skins, fur, or hair.

Also read: Is Cotton On Fast Fashion?

What Is Adidas Doing to Achieve its Sustainability Goals?

1. Adidas Collaboration with Parley

Adidas is still working on minimizing the negative environmental impact caused by its mass production. For this reason, it partnered with Parley for the Oceans, which was announced in 2015.

Adidas collaborated with Parley for the sake of ocean life

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Since then, the two have been working together. Adidas managed to commercialize the concept of using recycled waste from the oceans to make some of its products. This concept includes making shoes with filaments made from reclaimed and recycled materials like plastic and deep-sea gillnets.

Adidas group collecting plastic waste from the ocean for recycling

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2. Adidas Group Collaboration with Allbirds

As already mentioned earlier, the fashion industry is the second largest pollutant as a result of textile waste. However, Adidas is working on its part to minimize its carbon footprint throughout its supply chain. For this reason, it collaborated with Allbirds to share ideas and use more sustainable materials.

low carbon Adidas x Allbirds sneaker

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They managed to reimagine materials, manufacturing, and packaging techniques to lower the carbon impact. The brands do this without compromising the quality of their sportswear.

The goal of the collaboration between these two fast fashion brands is to minimize the emission of greenhouse gas emissions. These two also motivate other brands to collaborate to achieve better results toward sustainability.

3. Made to be Remade

Made to be remade is another way the brand is trying to achieve sustainability. It is a product line that deals with returned products. MTBR products are worn and returned to Adidas for shredding and to be made into something different.

Such products have a QR code that functions as a gateway that educates and engages the consumers while also ensuring they can return the product. So, if you have a pair of old running shoes that you’d like to dispose of, recycling is one of the ways to do so.

Examples of products in this line include the Ultraboost DNA Made to be Remade, made with 100% TPU, and are also among the best neutral running shoes. Other examples include the Stan Smith Made to be Remade, also made from 100% TPU, and the Terrex Free Hiker Made t be Remade.

Are Adidas Made in Sweatshops?

Adidas has made its products in sweatshops in the past; however, it is now more cautious and has taken corrective measures. Most fast fashion brands produce their items in sweatshops in third-world countries.

Research on the company’s supply chain exposed it to having some of its workers in terrible working conditions. There were four countries where Adidas employees worked in sweatshops and were not even paid a living wage.

laborers in a workshop

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In sweatshops, workers(who are mostly women) get paid barely minimum wages, and working conditions are terrible. Also, due to low payments, they have to work overtime to make ends meet.

Workers are also not given security in their job, which means that one can be fired anytime, and this makes protesting even harder for fear of losing their job. It even gets worse when workers have to ask for permission from their supervisors to use the washrooms.

Adidas has had its workers in such poor conditions; however, the company is slowly making steps in the right direction. It ranked second, according to 2021-2022 Know the Chain report.

Ranking second out of 37 means that Adidas provides enough information on its suppliers and recruitment policies. Workers also have a voice as they have unions where they can talk about their problems without the fear of being sacked.

Frequently Asked Questions on Adidas as a Fast Fashion Brand

1. What has Adidas done to be ethical?

Adidas aims to become a sustainable fashion brand by sourcing animal products ethically and sustainably. It has also collaborated with Parley to reduce ocean waste by recycling plastic bottles to make some of its products.

2. What makes Adidas different from its competitors?

Adidas uses a high-low pricing strategy whereby they keep their prices higher than other brands but use promotional discounts to attract customers.

3. What are the weaknesses of Adidas?

Adidas outsources the production of its products. Although this strategy allows it to cut costs, it is among its major weaknesses as it loses control over how the products are made.

4. Who is Adidas’ target market?

Adidas targets young individuals and athletes between the ages of 20-30 years.

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jacky chou


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