Fast fashion is unsustainable. We buy clothes, wear them once, then relegate them to the bottom of our closets and forget about them. The cycle begins again, and again, and again. The fashion industry thrives off this, producing clothes at a dizzying speed.
Global production has hit 100 billion garments, a figure that has doubled since the turn of the century. Spearheaded by chains such as Zara and H&M, stores are changing their stock on an almost daily basis. This is wrecking havoc on our wallets, our high street, and on our environment. Whilst clothing production has doubled since 2000, the actual usage of the items we buy has almost halved. We may be more frequently buying clothes. But we are not wearing them.
It’s a negative correlation. An inverse relationship. And it is a capitalist utopia. We are compelled to continue buying and buying. In doing so, we continue to support, to uphold the titan industry that is gorging off this cycle. This is unsustainable. But not only for individuals and their bank balances, the environment is suffering too. The production process of these garments is choking the planet. The textile industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, globally. It also thrives off non-renewable resources and man-made synthetics. Only 1% of all garments made are recyclable due to their polyester content. A pertinent issue as evidence points to only 10% of items actually being donated. Instead, the rest are being sent to the landfill. A minute proportion of these are actually being degraded.
The rest are causing the planet to buckle under the weight of the leviathan industry that is producing this giant spiral of waste. Of course, this cannot be changed without the industry itself being challenged. Whilst attempts have begun with projects like Stella McCartney’s, it is unlikely to slow the cycle down as the profit continues to grow. The textile industry is a conglomeration of all the most successful aspects of capitalism, the media, and the beauty industry. We are unlikely to shake off this cycle easily or even fully, but change can occur. And it starts with us.
I’m not saying that you have to stop shopping. Actually, this might be the most enjoyable sustainable change you can make. You can shop, in fact as much as you want – just in a sustainable way. There are so many ways to do this. And weirdly, all of them appeal to your self-interest. You get to be selfish, and you get to save the planet. It’s the millennial solution.
The industry is actually creating an incentive to do this. Walk around any uni and you can see the current trend – a mishmash of vintage, 90s-inspired gear. And the cornucopia of such wavy garms? Charity shops. They’re the OG Urban Outfitters. At the rate that we are buying and replacing fashion, charity shops have more fashionable stock than ever.
You can find labels, you can find mint condition, and you can find lower prices. I could appeal to your morals or environmentalism. But I know it doesn’t work. Sure we care, but not enough to sacrifice our individual styles or credibility. Our fashion habits may cause the end of the world, but at least we’d face it fashionably. But appeals to self-interest, in our society – that makes the difference. Campaigns that have realised this have been successful in implement change by recasting it as a cool trend.
Take KeepCup for example. Countless campaigns have come and gone without any real impact on the issue of disposable plastic. Only when KeepCup introduced stylish, Scandi-inspired cups did the campaign kick off. If you want change to occur, you need to incentivise the people. That’s how fast fashion industry gets them. We need to play at their own game if we want to beat them.