A Prevalent Issue in Today's World.
It could be argued fashion is a necessity, allowing many people a means of escapism, expression and freedom. Trends have come and gone, influencing people’s styles. Fashion allows people to blur gender boundaries, more so with luxury labels, in contrast to high-street brands who have a stronger focus on ‘men’ and ‘women’ clothing. Fashion has allowed people to show personality and character in a fun, expressive way.
However, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. One branch of fashion, ‘Fast Fashion’, where clothing items are purchased with minimal understanding of the impact fashion has on the environment or the workers in the supply chain.
‘Fast Fashion’ describes mass-production of on-trend, fashionable clothing sold inexpensively. The consequence is a huge impact on the environment and in the garments, the quality and durability is likely be reflected through the low cost. Clothing sold by fast-fashion giants is affordable for their target market, i.e. 14 to 24-year olds, for students who live on a constrained budget, inexpensive clothing and accessories are ideal for their lifestyles. However, fast fashion leads to over-consumption of clothing; sales, discounts and low prices entice customers into purchasing more items than they need. Many of those items may only be worn a handful of times and are later disposed of.
One of the biggest changes the world faces is the growth of the human population, resulting in more clothing manufacture. However, access to fashion without using valuable resources needs to be considered. There is a constant cycle of clothing and accessories being produced, bought, sold and potentially never worn. The habit of purchasing new and on-trend clothing has increased substantially, partly due to high street and online fast-fashion brand. These brands constantly provide new collections to mirror the current high-end catwalk trends. With new trends constantly entering the market, what happens to the previous ‘trendy’ clothing purchased?
Make it Last."
There are many issues created by the fashion industry; climate change, pollution, the use of hazardous chemicals, diminishing resources, and modern-day slavery are all key, relevant issues within the industry. Climate change is a global concern, the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere have already exceeded and surpassed levels which scientists consider safe. Clothing which is disposed of ends up in landfill sites and non-biodegradable materials can sit there for hundreds of years, emitting methane (a greenhouse gas). Another concern is water use in clothing manufacture - according to UNICEF, ‘785 million people don’t have access to clean water near home’. The production of cotton consumes a surprising amount of water - to make one cotton t-shirt, it can take up to 2700 litres of water, a standard lemonade bottle is 2 litres. If one cotton t-shirt is worn just a few times then disposed of, that water has been wasted unnecessarily. Polyester is used as an alternative material in some cotton products. However, polyester is a synthetic, man-made fibre containing a common plastic and therefore is not a sustainable material.
Sustainable fashion is slowly being introduced into the industry, helping to improve important environmental and global issues which fast fashion has partly created. Sustainable fashion is a positive environmental move improving the fashion industry’s footprint and increasing awareness of the social injustice behind fashion. As Barack Obama said, “We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”
There are many ways where customers can make a positive impact within the fashion industry. Before buying clothing, consider and research the ethical stance and values the brands uphold – that the workers are treated with equality and are not discriminated based on their race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, gender or age and the workers should be working in decent working conditions with suitable pay. Instead of disposing of unwanted clothes, consider donating them to charity shops, selling them if they are in a satisfactory condition or recycle them. But firstly, think before you buy.
#30wears campaign – encourages you to only buy an item if you know you’ll wear it at least 30 times.
Words: Isabella Kellock (Journalism student)