Once upon a time, throwing together a last-minute outfit took time, imagination, and a damn good selection of accessories.
However, in our new climate of fast fashion and cheap-as-chips prices, the Thursday evening ‘what am I going to wear on the weekend?’ crisis is solved with a simple trip to your local shopping center – or a spot of fast delivery online shopping.
For the same price of a cheap meal, you can now be decked out head-to-toe in the latest fashion trends. Sure, the clothes might not last more than a few wears (or an encounter with the washing machine), but who cares when you are able to scratch that sartorial itch for under $50?
Sitting in a pile of clothes on your bedroom floor and moaning “I have nothing to wear!” is almost extinct, and we’ve never felt happier. But have you ever wondered how this love ’em and leave ’em fashion movement has been made possible?
The cost of the rapidly expanding ‘fast fashion’ industry is devastating to both the planet, and the people caught up in the production process. It’s time to stop and consider the true cost behind the price of fast fashion.
We are quickly racing towards the intersecting point where supply and demand in the fashion industry crash. We are demanding more than ever, faster than ever, and cheaper than ever. How fast can we expect the suppliers to run?
The 2015 documentary ‘The True Cost’ is one of those movies you can’t un-see. Tracking the production of cheap and cheerful Western fashion items from the rack all the way back to the factory, the viewer is shown scene after mortifying scene of horrifying work conditions, factory waste, human loss, and massive pollution.
Aussie climate change website 1 Million Women pulled out their five most unforgettable facts from the film:
The fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter.Right behind the oil industry!
The world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year.This is up 400% from two decades ago.One-in-six people work in the global fashion industry.A majority of these workers are women earning less than $3 per day. 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years. Partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds, courtesy of Monsanto.Only 10 per cent of the clothes people donate to charity or thrift stores get sold.The rest end up in landfills or flooding markets in developing countries like Haiti where they are bought by the box and kill the local industry.
Our behaviour is learned.
Asking people to simply stop shopping is not realistic. We have been prodded and primed as the consumer generation, and are only acting out what we know: that materialism is healthy, and shopping makes us feel good.
Advertisements for fast fashion pepper every media outlet. Whether you’re flicking through a magazine or flicking through the channels on TV, the messaging is loud and clear – shop fast, shop cheap, shop now!
“Fashion is a human story.” – Alber Elbaz #TrueCostMovie A photo posted by The True Cost (@truecostmovie) on May 18, 2015 at 8:05am PDT
We have been groomed to believe that we deserve low prices, and that anything beyond a certain cost bracket is a crafty maneuver of the fashion industry to grab our money.
Big outlets like Zara make us believe we are cheating the system by getting the latest fashion at a fraction of the standard price.
We can enforce change.
Feeling slightly overwhelmed? We were too.
But if we just delivered the bad news, the good news is this: you can help.
Watch the trailer for ‘The True Cost’ below.
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After all, fashion is not an entirely evil industry – it is a creative outlet, art, an expression of who we are. So how can you continue to buy into fashion…without buying into the fast fashion industry?
- Sign up to one of the many ‘Buy, Swap, Sell’ groups on Facebook. You can trade or shop for second-hand clothes from the labels you love – some items have never been worn.
- Head to your local op-shop! Take the time to properly sort through the racks, and you will be shocked with what you find.
- Set up a clothes swap with your girlfriends, or at your workplace – one gal’s trash is absolutely another gal’s treasure. We did a clothes swap here at Mamamia to great success.
- Educate yourself on ethical and sustainable fashion. There are hundreds of amazing labels who are producing their goods without exploiting staff or costing the environment.
The antidote: ethical and sustainable fashion.
Julia Hughes – along with her sister Miriam – is the owner and founder of Sunday Tracker, an online boutique that only stocks fully ethical and sustainable fashion.
“My sister and I have always been greenies with a strong sense of social justice, especially around women’s empowerment, but until a few years ago we hadn’t really applied that to our wardrobes,” says Julia.
“There was a personal journey we both went on, learning how destructive fast fashion it can be – both environmentally and exploiting of some of the most vulnerable women in the world.”
Go on, use your imagination.
Here’s a dare: next time you are sitting on a pile of clothing almost as big as you, wailing to your boyfriend that a) nothing fits you, b) everything is old, or c) it’s all ugly – TRY HARDER.
Seriously. Stop thinking that it’s a cardinal sin to repeat a great outfit, because chances are no-one remembers it from the first time around. Start flicking through magazines or fashion blogs for inspiration on how you could style older pieces in a new way.
And for goodness sake, look after your clothes! Hand wash the delicates, and store them lovingly in your wardrobe. You will be surprised what tricks those old dogs can turn out…
Shop forever, not for the season.
Is it well made? Does it fit you perfectly? Is it going to survive the ebbs and flows of seasonal trends?
Spending a little bit more, and buying a little bit less, is a great way to start slowing down your fast fashion addiction. The ‘Slow Fashion’ movement is turning out an increasing number of brands pledging to create items that are made to last.
Kickstarter start-up Flint & Tinder have released their ’10 Year Hoodie’, which comes with a lifetime guartuntee, free mending, and a decade of free returns.
But existing brands are sticking to a slow-fashion mentality, too – American heritage brand Pendleton still use their 100-year-old mills in the Northwest, commit to using sustainable wool, recycling materials, and using new technology to reduce water wastage.
You can check out some amazing Australian brands leading the way in ethical and sustainable ‘slow fashion’, here.
Because at the end of the day, the only people who can slow down this destructive process are us – the consumers.