Our consumption of clothing is out of control.
Already 80% of all clothing being produced is ending up in landfill. And clothing consumption is expected to double by 2030 if we continue the way we are heading. (i.e fast fashion, greenwashing & making sustainable shopping inaccessible for most people!)
The fashion industry is built on systems of oppression and exploitation and the more that we demand fast, cheap clothes the more that the people further down in the supply chain suffer. As factories are pushed to deliver more, faster and cheaper without receiving more help or money, our desire for more translates into unpaid overtime and use of intimidation, harassment, coercion and violence to make sure deadlines are met by any means possible. The weird thing is - how little responsibility fashion brands in the industry have to take for the conditions at the factories which create their products. Did you know that after the deadly Rana Plaza factor collapse activists had to search through the rubble to find labels, in order to identify the brands that were using the unsafe factory?
This is scary to think about. And becomes even scarier when we think that since 2005 clothing production has doubled, and the amount that we wear our clothing has steadily decreased.
Our planet can’t support production on this scale either. The Ellen MacArthur foundation has estimated that the fashion industry’s oil consumption will triple by 2050 if we continue in this way! (considering the fact that we're pretty much at the point of no-return climate change-wise makes this fact especially depressing.)
Since it’s kind of common knowledge that mass production and shopping in such excess is bad for both planet and people – why do we do it?
For me, the constant bombardment of sales and deals into my inbox, the hundreds of photos a day I see on social media and the new products brought into store literally every week can be very tempting. Somehow we have created a culture where shopping is a pastime, where buying clothes is something we just do for fun – not when we need clothes, and where re-wearing an outfit is just not done. I own a lot of clothes, but when an event is coming up I instantly feel like I need to buy a new outfit – specifically for that event. Why do I feel like that?
For the record I don’t! (unless it’s a wedding or something where I really don’t own anything appropriate - in which case I shop second hand!) But why have I been taught to think that after owning something for a few months, even weeks, it's suddenly not good enough any more.
It’s gotten to the point now where we produce about 150 billion items of clothing per year, and throw out a garbage truck full of clothing every minute. A whole truck! every. minute. Thats so much clothing - that we're instantly replacing with new items, before we throw those out ofcourse and the whole cycle continues.
For some sustainable fashion isn't accessible, fast fashion is the only price point or geographically viable option, of course these low quality pieces then break and have to be thrown out or replaced (they also clog up second hand shops across the globe and ruin trade as no one wants to buy them again) - so the cycle is actually forced to get constant profit as new things just keep having to be bought.
All these sacrifices – the garment workers, the planet, even our own confidence in how we dress, have been made for the sake of profit. And we believe that these sacrifices shouldn’t be necessary. It is possible to make nice clothes of high quality, that do not exploit anyone or cause excessive damage to the planet. So why aren’t brands delivering this to us? Why aren’t we getting what we want?
Its time we start speaking up and telling fashion brands what we want – we can stop feeling so pressured to buy in excess all the time, save our money, love what we have and stop all the injustices going on within fashion. We just need to keep speaking up! SO tag brands online, email them, write them letters, write blogs, post about them… just let them know that we know what they are doing, and we don’t want to be a part of it anymore!
If you want to make a difference, we understand that not everyone can shop vintage, or thoroughly research the brands they buy from etc. But if you have social media you can speak up or do your digging like we suggested in the last paragraph. If you have the ability to learn to sew and repair your clothing then do that instead of buying new items. Shop in charity shops or do swaps instead of buying new. Or just talk to other people about they ways that they personally could make a change. We can't all be perfect (and tbh it's the fashion industry that needs to change - not us!) but we can all do something, no matter how small, to turn this ship around.