Recently I have come to the decision that I will no longer be buying any new clothes and accessories from fast fashion retailers. I want to rethink my whole thought process on what I wear, where it comes from, how it’s made, who is making it and turn ‘fast fashion’ on it’s head.
Nowadays we live, especially in the West, a very fast paced way of life. Which can lead us to believing we are entitled to everything that we want, there and then! We are continuously fed all sorts of glamours lifestyle dreams. From TV advertising, magazines and this new wave of ‘influencers’ over social media. We are tempted by an array of alluring images that make us believe we need x,y, and z to look good, be successful, to be beautiful, fashionable and worthy. It scares me. A lot!
I’ll tell you why it scares me, horrifies me more like and why I want to give up altogether buying new clothing and accessories from ‘fast fashion’ retailers.
Firstly, let me explain what ‘fast fashion’ is. Simply put, fast fashion is retailers taking the current trends from the runway or a celebrity and selling their versions for you to imitate. They have a few main focuses, those being, speed and low costs to keep up with the ever changing frequent fashion trends. Retailers such as Zara, H&M, Topshop etc are forever trying to keep up with demand, with their main focus being on making huge profits, while keeping costs as low as possible, which usually leads to corners being cut left, right and centre; also they have the products in their stores first.
The most frightening concern I have is how shut off we are from what actually goes on amongst the fashion industry. So often, all we choose to see is the attractive item hanging on the rail, we wear it once and then discard it like it’s yesterdays newspaper. I don’t know why we have developed this habit that we think clothing is a disposable product. For some crazy reason we think it’s wrong to be seen in something twice. Especially with the presence of social media. We post a picture of us in an outfit on holiday, to a wedding, a birthday party and then that outfit is bizarrely deemed unwearable to another social event (even when you felt amazing wearing it!). It blows my mind!
We have all been guilty of saying ‘I have nothing to wear’ I will put my hand up to staring at my full wardrobe and complaining that I simply have ‘nothing!’. Let’s be honest, what bullshit! I loved wearing certain items so much, but felt I couldn’t wear it over and over again without getting a ‘tut tut’ from peering eyes and scrolling thumbs on social media. When the stark reality was “who the bloody hell cares?!” Let’s put it into perspective for a moment. With everything that goes on in this world of ours, is Beverley from down the road going to stop what’s going on in her day because I’ve wandered by in the same dress three times in one week. The Answer is “no” no she won’t.
“Fast fashion brands put out new collections every week or month to make it seem like your wardrobe is all off trend. This is the reason you sit and stare at your full wardrobe thinking you have nothing to wear.”
So, where did this obsession start? How did we get so infatuated with clothes? The rise of social media influencers, fashion bloggers and the need to be ‘insta famous’ I believe has had a huge part to play in our need to impulse buy. It’s a fact, that 20 years ago the average consumer was buying twice as less garments than we do today, on average 30 garments a year.
Fast forward to 2018, and the average consumer in the UK is buying 67+ new items a year. That’s a new piece of clothing every 4 days. This obsessive, addictive need to constantly buy new items has so many heartbreaking and negative effects on the planet and the people working to make them.
I want to discuss the thousands upon thousands of lives behind each and every garment made for fast fashion retailers. Astonishingly, 1 in 6 people work in the global fashion industry. (That really surprised me). This industry thrives on low costs and speed. Every factory is undercutting the other to win the contract, so it is no surprise that many corners will be cut. More often than not, those corners will be the lives of those working in the factory: their safety, their pay, their working hours. [All of which will be stretched beyond an already overstretched limit]. Thousands of factory workers have lost their lives due to the buildings they are forced to work in collapsing on them. In Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza disaster (2013) killed 1,134 garment workers. Just think about that for a second. These wonderful, hard working people have showed up for work, and because of such exploitation, their safety isn’t a priority and they were killed. It’s unimaginable for me that something so avoidable took the lives of all those people. Sadly, it’s an everyday occurrence in the industry. This is an industry where the poor are exploited and the rich man gets richer. In just four days, top fashion CEOs earn a garment worker’s lifetime pay. An average fast fashion garment worker is paid £1-£3 a day and will usually work till midnight and start again at 5.30 in the morning. Since the Rana Plaza disaster, changes have been made, slowly. Let’s be frank though, it took for a disaster like Rana Plaza to happen for the garment workers to be heard and for their welfare to be a priority. It was on the world stage for all to see, fashion retailers had no choice but to do something, they couldn’t act (anymore) as if they didn’t know it was going on. Even though slow changes in this area of the industry are getting better, the wage of a garment worker is still very far from changing (especially with inflation) as retailers and factories are still competing for the lowest price. This still, very much so, remains an unlivable wage in many countries. So please, next time you shop, be mindful of who has made the item you are purchasing. Ask the questions, are they looked after properly? Do they get a fair living wage? Because all the time we are fuelling the industry, the same lives will be exploited.
The environmental effect of fast fashion is devastating. We now know society is consuming fashion at a rate like never before. 80 billion pieces of clothing are consumed every year. 80 BILLION!! I honestly can’t even picture how much that truly is in my mind.
Here are some hard to swallow environmental facts for you to digest:
- 2 billion jeans are produced every year. It takes on average 7000 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans.
- It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce one t-shirt.
- 1.7 million tonnes of various chemicals are used each year.
- An estimated 400 billion square meters of textiles are produced annually. 60 billion square meters of that are left on the cutting room floor.
- After it’s short lifespan 3 out of 4 garments will end up in landfill.
- Donating to charity is an illusion of what true sustainability is. Only 1% of collected clothing can be used as recycled fibres.
- Clothes made from polyester can take up to 200 years to break down.
- Only 10% of the clothes people donate to charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill.
The fast fashion industry is shocking, especially when you look at the facts. So how can we fix the problem. The answer is, slow down. Turn fast fashion into ‘slow fashion’. I have decided to stop buying new clothes altogether. It’s actually been quite stimulating. I’ve found myself putting together outfits I wouldn’t usually have done before. In all honesty, I’ve never been the biggest shopper. I find the whole experience quite tedious and frustrating. But buying a couple of second hand items from charity shops and vintage stores has been so much more enjoyable. I feel more confident to buy things that I wouldn’t have ever picked up before. Also, It’s all so much more simpler. I often wear the same outfit for a few days in a row, nobody comments or even seems to notice at all.
My top tips for being more conscious about the clothing you wear and avoiding fast fashion:
- Stay away from impulse buys from fast fashion retailers.
- Think about where your garments have come from. Who has made these clothes? Have they been treated fairly?
- Get crafty. Pick up a needle and fix your broken garments or do some up cycling.
- Buy second hand clothing from charity shops and vintage stores.
- Borrow from friends. Swap clothes with friends.
- ‘Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.’ – Vivienne Westwood.
- Wear garments more than once. If you love it and it makes you feel good. You wear it as much as you bloody well like and feel fabulous!!!
Buying clothes, and expressing ourselves with fashion is an enjoyable experience. It’s a huge embodiment of expression. But this connection with our clothes has turned into something so irreversibly detrimental to the peoples lives that are exploited and the environmental effects to our planet. A change has to happen. Many of us have this connection with clothes and impulse buying where we think it will make us happy. Truthfully, that rush of happiness doesn’t last long and more often than not, we are back at it again, rushing around in search of that next surge of happiness. Clothes cannot and will not make you happy indefinitely . Simple as that. The happiness needs to come from somewhere far more real than a new piece of clothing. It’s well overdue that we take a firm grip on the fast fashion industry and start making changes right now.