The hot topic this summer definitely has to be the human impact on the world. We all watch ‘Our Planet’ with Sir David Attenborough, who tells us how we are killing species after species, attributing to climate change and then of course, ‘Cowspiracy’, where we all commit ourselves to becoming vegetarians. No part of our lifestyle seems justifiable anymore. And now we have another element to throw into the mix of suspects of the deterioration of our world. We need to take a deeper look at the world of fast fashion and how we can still maintain our stylish wardrobes while simultaneously, being environmentally responsible.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is the mass production of cheap clothing. As a result, people can afford to keep up with trends from season to season and throw away old, unused and unwanted items, which then end up in landfill sites. The fashion industry has appeared an obscure component, one which I had never thought had a catastrophic impact, aside from human labour conditions. But it has now been the latest target by environmentalists for its severe reality. Clothes equate to more greenhouse gas emissions than airmiles, which as we know are colossal.
TV documentarian, Stacey Dooley, investigated the fast fashion industry and revealed that to make one cotton coat, 10,330 litres of water was required. This water could instead be used as one persons drinking water for 24 years of their life. Our world generates over one billion items of clothing every year. So how many litres of water do these clothing brands require first, in order to grow the plants that make the fabrics?
Browsing social media, I came across a clothes swap event, ‘Get in Loser We’re Going Clothes Swapping’. It was held in Ulster University, Belfast, by Fashion and Textiles students. So, I hopped on the 218, being eco-friendly, and decided to find out more about fashion and its impacts from Amy, Tommy and Jordan who work with it every day.
Shopping habits, both good and bad were first on the agenda with the students, as were the benefits of recycling, upcycling or simply swapping our clothes using apps like Depop. Belfast has a thriving vintage scene with some well-established stores, including Jean Jeanie and Octopus Garden. Alternative methods of shopping reduce the amount of clothes produced, while still allowing for a shopping spree. Other high-street chains, including River Island, were the subject of humiliation and indignity, as shocking truths were unveiled on their handling of stock.
Full details of the interview are available by clicking on the link.
What’s your opinion?
Post interview thoughts had left me feeling ashamed and guilty and so I took to social media to complete a social experiment in the form of an Instagram poll, to find out if anyone else was as forward thinking as these students, or if indeed, more education was needed.
Unsurprisingly, 53% of the 76 voters who took part in my Instagram poll didn’t know what the term ‘fast fashion’ meant, highlighting just how unaware most people are about the causes of their retail therapy. Ultimately, we need to become savvier when shopping. I was really intrigued and pushed to find out the shopping habits of my followers. I branched out to explore the popularity and usage of apps like Depop among my followers. I was even more shocked when 56% of voters told me that they only shop new items. Popularity of 80’s and 90’s style, I predicted, would entice more people to shop more alternatively and authentically.
This was getting interesting. My next question: “would you spend huge amounts on one piece that will last or small amounts on pieces for each season?” bore into the personal details of shopping. It was hugely one sided with 71% admitting that they spend a little on larger amounts rather than indulging in expensive pieces. With the utter heartbreak that most people suffered after the Primark fire, I was already prepared for this answer. A large amount of people who had voted were students, and as we know they budget themselves. It would be unrealistic for them to expect them to reroute their spending habits. The high street is much more accessible for most people. But perhaps small changes would not just benefit us but also the environment. Why not spend £100 on a coat that will see you through the next few winters rather than £20 on one that you will throw out after 1 season? The mentality behind this being, if we spend more money on something, we will be less inclined to throw it out in a hurry. Then this adds less to landfills and overall there will be a lesser requirement for companies to make clothes in bulk.
Designer Stella McCartney has revealed that the fashion industry sits at the second most detrimental business regarding the environment. As a huge name in fashion she has decided to try other means of growing fibres such as silk, in labs. Fashion house ASOS have jumped on the bandwagon and started offering sustainably made clothes. They have claimed that “34%” of their fibres are sustainably sourced meaning they have less impact on the global fashion crisis.
But just because you have had the same for the past three winters doesn’t mean that your style needs to be boring, bland or repetitive. I was curious to know if many people were fans of upcycling, reinventing or exchanging their garments and 82% or people maintained that they would be up for trying this. This was interesting and I do believe that people are more creative and confident with their style. Those 82% gave me a lot of hope and positivity that we can change our lifestyles.
This then moved us on to the last question which is one which I believe is a prominent one. I asked my followers if they would consider wearing clothes made for the opposite sex – as in wear their boyfriend or girlfriends’ clothes. The response to this was more in line with people that are going to help persevere our planet. 77% of people said they did, and I must admit I do this too. This is becoming more and more the norm especially with brands such as Collusion, who target their clothes at both sexes. A lot of the time clothes can be versatile, but we are paranoid that it appears noticeable.
What are the rest of the world doing about it?
The interviews, paired with my own research, alerted me to a gigantic revelation in our role as consumers. As we know, fashion goes full circle, so it may come in handy for us to save our of-season clothes for the next decade or turn them into our nearest charity shop. We need to be more cautious about what we do with our clothes and where they go after we are finished with them.
Global platforms, like fashion shows, now have a pressure to perform responsibly. Milan fashion week is perhaps one which is aware of its duty ahead of its time. And Green Carpet Fashion Awards boasted upcycled items starting off with one of the most prominent features of such a grand event – used fishing nets tailored together with used carpets. This made a colossal statement at such a media covered evet. And similarly, to McCartney, the manufacture of fabrics from more eco-friendly sources has become the latest trend. One dress was coined by marrying polyurethane with leftover apple pulp. Although these technology-based trends may incorporate some time before they hit the high street, there are many tips that environmentalists and fashionistas alike have given to support the long-lasting wear of clothing.
- Things like how you take care of your garments all matter too. Experts say that washing your clothes at lower temperatures can be beneficial to them and increase the durability.
- In turn, if garments are more durable, they are more resilient and should last consumers an extra 9 months, resulting in the decrease of natural resources required to make them by up to 30%.
In order to preserve the world, we require more knowledge. We need a better understanding. We need to adapt, change and overcome the obstacles that stand in our way, because we have the tools. These companies have allowed us to make room for no excuses. We only have one world, lets protect it!