The excitement, the franticness, the thrill. The shiny new purchases from the haul that you got at such a big discount you bought twice what you normally would.
What started as the first day of the shopping season in America following Thanksgiving, Black Friday has now turned into a global discount shopping event so prominent that people even set their alarms for it…
In the 1960s, we handmade 95% of our clothes. Now, we make just 3%. Why? Because it’s often cheaper, easier and more convenient for us to buy a new dress than for us to make one ourselves…and who really knows how to make that perfect, figure-hugging-but-not-too-much dress for this weekend’s night out? But if buying an item which has been designed, physically created from materials that have been sourced and dyed, shipped across the world, and then sold to retailers who sell it to us at huge profits, how can it be cheaper than us buying some fabric and making it ourselves? How is it that costs of production have gone up but clothes prices in high street stores have gone down? The way of making products has changed, and so have our attitudes to shopping. Meanwhile, the big businesses who are raking in the profits are laughing.
Have you noticed that instead of merely having two fashion seasons a year, we now have 52? This has been created so that companies can increase their profits by shifting more products, through the concept of fast fashion. This makes us think we’re always behind the trends, resulting in us consuming around 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year.
Have you ever seen a new trend emerge, question whether it was “really you”, but pushed the boat out to buy it as it gains popularity, just to realise two days later that no one’s wearing it anymore? And so the pattern begins again. What this creates is a vicious cycle of consumers believing that they need to be current and on-trend, conforming to these latest looks and styles, and then throwing those clothes out just a few weeks later when these styles are “old news”. This is known as fast fashion, and you can understand why.
Fast fashion has meant that there is a huge demand for clothes to be made as quickly as possible, which of course puts a huge strain on the very beginning of the life cycle of our clothes: the cotton plants.
Cotton farmers are now continuously being told “faster, faster, faster” meaning that they no longer have time to treat specific plants with pesticides that need it. Instead, they’re chucking huge doses of chemicals onto millions of acres of cotton plants in one quick sweep. The problem with that is a concept known as ‘ecological narcotics’, meaning that the more we use these chemicals, the more we need to use them, as nature fights back with immunity.
An extensive 50 million litres of chemicals are poured into just one river in India every single day. The result of this is that the soil, local environment and crops, including fresh vegetables, are contaminated, as well as increased health problems to local people forced to use that water source; these include skin rashes, jaundice, and even cancers.
Fast fashion has meant that 11 million tonnes of textiles are thrown away every year in the US alone, and the majority of that is not biodegradable, meaning it will be clogging up our landscapes for hundreds of years. This, coupled with pesticide use and our growing demand for new clothes, has meant that fashion is second only to oil as the most polluting industry in the world.
Many people say that it’s not our responsibility, that it’s the responsibility of the manufacturers and big businesses producing and selling these items, just like single-use plastic. While it’s true that businesses must take responsibility for the way fashion is being produced, without our demand for fast fashion the sheer volume of these products simply wouldn’t exist.
Fashion designer Stella McCartney explains that we, the customer, are in charge. We don’t have to buy into it; if we don’t like it, don’t do it, then the demand will go.
So what’s the solution?
Although fast fashion is a huge problem that needs to be urgently addressed by governments and business, we can all follow these simple steps to help heal our world:
- Buy less – do you really need another t-shirt, another pair of jeans, another sparkly top that you’ll wear twice before throwing it to the back of your wardrobe?
- Buy quality – Look at the labels of your clothes when you go shopping, where were they produced? Is the cotton organic meaning no harmful pesticides?
- Buy local – buying locally produced clothes ensures less pollution in transportation, and often better working environments and fairer pay.
- Swap don’t shop – swap clothes with friends and find a local clothes swap event near you.
Nature can bounce back and our world can be saved, but only if we fight for it and live consciously. Will you help save the world?