It’s a scary world out there in the wild (wasteful) west of fast fashion. We’ve reached a point where new garments are being produced (and thrown away) faster than the time it takes to read this sentence.
To paint a picture of how much our fashion consumption has changed, just twenty years ago fashion companies used to produce two ranges of clothing a year. By 2011, this had increased to 5, and today, fashion behemoth Zara produces 24 collections per year, which equates to roughly 840 million garments. Over in Sweden, H&M generates so much surplus inventory that the Swedish government now burns the clothing for fuel (whaaaattttt?)
Here on our sunny shores, the average Aussie buys 27 kilograms of clothing every year and only wears an item seven times—nope, that’s not a typo… seven measly times—before throwing it away.
The heavy toll of fast fashion
While there’s no doubt that fast fashion has dramatically lowered prices and democratised fashion (to a certain degree), it has come at an unconscionably steep cost – to the environment, to garment workers, and to the resources of the developing countries that most of this apparel is manufactured in.
In terms of its environmental impact, apparel and footwear production accounts for 8.1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – that’s as much as the total climate impact of the entire European Union.
In terms of its human cost, the endless push for cheaper production means that manufacturers turn to factories where working conditions are harsh—and sometimes, deadly. The collapse of the Rana garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people, is just one horrifying example of how dangerous conditions can be.
It’s mind-bogglingly scary, but thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. Concepts like fashion circularity or the circular economy are becoming part of the mainstream and we’re seeing new models of fashion consumption being championed, like the slew of fashion rental platforms and good quality secondhand and online vintage stores popping up.
This has led to people becoming more and more willing to purchase pre-owned, secondhand and vintage clothing. While vintage has always been a passion for me, we’re now starting to see higher numbers of consumers turning to vintage clothing as a sustainable way to express their personal style, without costing the earth. In fact, last year, 64% of women reported they were willing to buy pre-owned pieces compared with 45% in 2016, and the same report predicts that by 2028, 13% of the clothes in women’s wardrobes are likely to be secondhand. Praise be!
How to jump off the fast fashion treadmill
Regardless of what we know about the cost of fast fashion, it can still be hard to resist the pull of the new. Here are five tips to flip fast fashion on its head!
Buy less, wear more
It’s true that the most sustainable garment is the one we already own. A report out of the UK has found that extending the active life of 50% of UK clothing by just nine months would save 8% carbon, 10% water, and 4% waste per metric ton of clothing.
Know (and rock) your own style
Having a good sense of your own personal style makes you less likely to get swayed by the trends being pushed by fast fashion producers. Personal style is timeless – ticking to it doesn’t mean you never buy anything new, it just means you know what works for you so you can be more discerning in your purchases.
Learn how to sew (no joke)
How many times have you put a bloody fabulous pair of pants to one side because the zipper is broken, only for them to disappear into that mysterious Bermuda triangle of ‘clothes you used to know’ (usually found in piles on chairs in corners of bedrooms… )
Having the basics of sewing down pat means you can fix these little repairs yourself, without needing to replace a whole garment. If crafternoons aren’t your jam, then make friends with your local tailor or repair shop…..which is what I do 🙈.
AKA stop washing your clothes so much*. Cleaning a single pair of jeans throughout its lifespan can use more than 300 gallons of water. One simple way to reduce that impact- and help your clothes last longer – is to wash your clothes less often. Denim in particular rarely needs to be washed after a single wear, so pull those Levi 505’s out of the laundry hamper! You’ll save water and energy as well as wear and tear on the clothes.
* During this time of COVID-19 it has been pointed out to me that it may not be the best advice to be washing your clothes less. Of course, if you are a health worker or are working and out in the public out of your bubble we all need to be thinking about being super hygienic at the moment, which means washing your clothes more often. Stay safe babes.
Embrace pre-loved clothing
Yep… I left this one for last because it’s my favourite tip (not biased at all!). There’s no doubt that buying secondhand and vintage fashion is the best way to reduce your clothing footprint, and keep that hunger for fashion fed too. On top of having the planet thank you, it’s also a great way to find high quality, unique garments at a fraction of the price, so your bank account will thank you too!
It’s a win-win, babes.
Visit our online store to view the latest vintage ♥️ you can also find us at Clem’s Cargo Marketplace, 38 Tweed Street, Brunswick Heads NSW. Open 10am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.