As a global community, we produce vast amounts of disposable fashion. In some parts of the world, a garment is worn on average just 7 times. But just how big a problem is our overconsumption of fast fashion? Here are 5 reasons why you should avoid fast fashion.
How to avoid fast fashion – how many times do you wear an item of clothing?
While official figures don’t exist, the London Sustainability Exchange estimates that, as a global community, we produce between 80 and 100 billion pieces of clothing each year. Not million – billion. Production has quadrupled in 20 years. According to one survey, each piece is worn on average 7 times.
Every United States citizen produces on average almost 47 pieces of clothing waste per year. Meanwhile, in 2017 the UK sent 235 million items of clothing to landfill. When almost every piece of clothing is in some way recyclable, these numbers provide a bleak outlook on the world of fashion as it is today. It is a major contributor to an already major problem.
Fast fashion accounts for a momentous quantity of waste. As a step-around, some of the biggest clothing corporations prefix particular brands with words like ‘ethical’ and ‘conscious’. Under the guise of sustainability and ethical corporate policies, large companies continue to produce eye-watering levels of ‘disposable fashion’. However, most of this ends up as textile waste, in already overfull landfill sites.
So, what are the 5 key reasons you should avoid fast fashion?
#1 Your clothes will last longer
The fashion industry – especially fast fashion – usually relies on outsourcing labour to poor communities. In countries like China, Bangladesh and Vietnam, corporations can get away with paying minuscule amounts, compared with their retail prices. They can also get away with using unsustainable, mass-produced materials, partly because they are further away from consumer scrutiny.
Without investing properly in workforces and good quality textiles, fast fashion produces garments that will likely break or fall apart after just a few wears. As a result, by targeting short term fashion trends, fast fashion brands ensure that their garments can only be worn a few times. In this way, the quality of the garment prescribes certain attitudes among customers.
That shirt you thought looked cool in June might not be wearable by next summer.
#2 By choosing to avoid fast fashion, you will save money in the long run
There’s a reason brands like Doc Martens, The North Face and Patagonia have made resurgences into popular fashion. These brands have roots in durable, lifelong wear. Boots, jeans and jackets made 30 years ago are still wearable today. Patagonia even operates an Exchanges, Returns and Repairs service, offering guidance on DIY repair.
The money you save from not having to re-buy clothing items can be reinvested into doing things you love, or learning new skills – like clothing repair!
That pair of boots you bought 10 years ago still fits. Why not wear them?
#3 You will always have something to wear
If you buy sustainably produced clothes, look after them and keep hold of them, then you will never again find yourself without anything to wear. You won’t have thrown away that shirt because all the buttons came off. Nor will you have discarded that pair of plimsolls – you know the ones with the sole that kept flapping off?
Instead, you will have a few sturdy pairs of shoes and boots, some good quality trousers, shirts and jackets, and a newfound ability to mix and match. You will build relationships with your clothes, loving them differently in different climes and environs. This bag goes with that jacket, and put with those cords you bought in ’06 – you’ve discovered a new look!
#4 You will pass your clothes onto your kids
One of my favourite clothing items is a zip-up fleece my father bought for himself 35 years ago. Another is a jacket a friend’s father wore 25 years ago.
It is a source of cosiness and pride to me, to wear something that belongs to the family tree. Hand-me-downs have character. Some of these garments have been around longer than I have, and have stories to tell. By passing down from generation to generation, well-made clothes can bring us somehow closer together.
#5 Avoiding fast fashion is the right thing to do
There are a plethora of stories of clothing companies mistreating their employees, neglecting working conditions or cutting pay in order to maximise profits. Added to the astronomical amounts of textile waste associated with the fashion industry, it’s not hard to see where the drivers of fast fashion are taking us.
Words are not enough. Sharing petitions and articles can only go so far. The alternative is to lead by example, and vote with your pocket. Instead of supporting large corporations responsible for litanies of unethical practices, source your clothes from a small scale, ethical brand. While you’re at it, consider alternative, sustainable fabrics. Avoid fast fashion and be kind to your skin, and the planet, at the same time.
Or, better still: buy clothes second-hand, from charity shops or yard sales. That way, you support charities or individuals, rather than unsustainable fashion practices.