Fast Fashion Epidemic
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
This is the phenomenon where mega global companies — H&M, Mango, Uniqlo, Zara, Forever 21, etc. — expedite production so they can get the latest "trendy" items in-store as quickly and cheaply as possible, from the runways to the street in just a few weeks. All this is made possible by superior supply chain management and the internet/social media, fueling an unquenchable public desire for the latest and greatest.
When we buy such items of clothing we are not appreciating it's "true" cost, meaning, whilst it may retail for a meager price, in reality, we are sacrificing quality, authenticity, the environment and, most importantly, the basic living standards of adult or child labourers in developing countries who make the garments for far below minimum wage.
Here are a few more bits of food for thought:
* It's toxic — bear in mind that most fast fashion garments are made with inexpensive, petroleum-based fibres that don’t readily decompose (such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic), they’re going to be taking up landfill space for decades to come.
* Low-quality changes how you think about clothes — when we buy “cheap chic” clothes at places like Target, even though there’s not planned obsolescence — the clothing isn’t designed to fall apart — we don’t expect it to last. We don’t invest much in it monetarily or emotionally; it’s just to fill the gap (wedding, party, conference, etc.) and then its job it's done. If clothing feels cheap, fast, and disposable, that’s how we treat it. What's more, it distorts your overall sense of value — with the rise of fast fashion, we expect our clothing to cost virtually nothing, even though we are willing to pay a premium price for other items, e.g., the latest Apple product.
* Collaborations trick consumers into paying for a so-called "brand name" — these limited-time capsule collections are designed to do pretty much one thing — send shoppers into a buying frenzy, where they don’t even care what they get, so long as they’re getting something with the designer’s name on it.
* Hinders local manufacturing and jobs — from the 1970’s onward more and more apparel manufacturing went overseas (China, India, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Thailand, The Philippines, etc.) to maintain their profit margins. And just like that, apparel manufacturing jobs in places like US, UK, Europe and Australia disappeared virtually overnight. On average, local workers make about 38 times the wage of their overseas counterpart, so yes, clothing that is legitimately "American-made" is not going to be that cheap.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether these companies are investing in developing recyclable textiles, sustainable fabrics, etc. What matters is us, the consumer. At present we are part of the problem - supporting these companies with our dollars. What we need to do is become part of the solution, and the most straightforward step we can take is to say "no!" to fast fashion and stop buying it. Let's be honest, do any of us need another cheap T-shirt? And what about that cute one you brought last season and only wore a few times because the seems starter to fray and it never really fit right anyway. What not up-cycle it into something else (more on that later)?
So, what can we do? Well, other than stop buying fast fashion and donating to charity*, one of the simplest things we can do is re-purpose or otherwise reuse the items we already own. A little effort and ingenuity go a long way. Check out the below list with 20 creative ideas to get you started:
1) Onesie to T-shirt
2) Men's shirt to girl's dress
3) Used cloth to elbow patch
4) Sweater (jumper) to cardigan
5) T-shirt to produce bag
6) Jean to quilt
7) T-shirt to scarf
8) Oversize T-shirt to strapless dress
9) Nightshirt to shorts
10) Baby clothes to stuffed toys
11) T-shirts to bedspread
12) Pant to door draft stopper
13) Wool sweater to winter hat (beanie)
14) Pillowcase to romper
15) Men's handkerchief to heat bag
16) Shirts to pillowcase
17) Long-sleeve shirt to wrap skirt
18) Jean to purse
19) Pillowcase to girl's nightgown
20) Adult shirt + wide onesie to toddler dress
*Even if you donate used clothes to charity, nearly half of all charitable donations go directly to textile recyclers. On the one hand, yes, a large percentage of this is reused in different ways, such as recycled into new products like insulation. On the other side, though, it’s unbelievably wasteful; there’s the use of water, energy and chemicals in the manufacturing process to be considered. Not to mention that there’s also the “downstream” costs, including to the charities themselves, who are forced to spend a considerable amount of money sifting through donated clothing to take out all the ripped, torn and soiled items they can't be sold and must be disposed of.
FINAL THOUGHTS :-)
We would be remiss if we didn't mention that you can easily turn your own cotton into a sustainable beeswax wrap! That's right, your old dress, napkin, T-shirt, handkerchief and shirt can easily be converted into a food wrap in next to no time and given a new lease on life. All you'll need to do this is a piece of cotton fabric, beeswax (preferably pellets), an oven, small brush and a clothesline or drying rack. It's that simple.
If you've caught the upcycle bug, check out our previous blog post — 40 Creative Ways to Upcycle Old Things — about upcycling everything around the home, from suitcases and wine bottles to paper clips and cupcake wrappers.
If you want to stay up-to-date about developments and happening in the up-cycling world, join the Facebook group Up-Cycled Cloth Collective.
Oh, one last thing... we want to give a shout-out to a fellow Bangkok-based forward-thinking business. ANCHA Beachwear is a fantastic Thai-inspired, eco-friendly brand making a range of gorgeous one-piece and bikini swimwear featuring durable and luxurious fabrics sourced from the USA and Italy and made from used nylon, fishnets and plastic. Right now they have a Kickstarter campaign live here, where you can grab a great deal on a chic eco swimsuit.
Making a conscious decision to support sustainable and eco brands is something we here at Wrappini fully support. Are there any great brands in your local area doing likewise that you can recommend to our community?