In my almost seven decades on this planet, I have seen the fashion industry explode from one of the more expensive line items in a family’s budget, to a cheap runaway commodity that is out of control. The damage to the planet and population serving the needs of this industry are becoming more and more transparent every day, and yet as consumers, we continue to buy and throw away clothes at an alarming rate. Because our pocket books are fueling this disaster, it is our duty to withhold spending money on fast fashion as a matter of protest.
While we are learning more and more about this disastrous industry, it does not seem to be changing our behaviors. We continue to indulge in this fashion ’addiction’; buying cheap clothes, and tossing them. How do we change our behaviors when the destruction of the industry is over there, rather than here. How do we stop buying clothes when they are so cheap, and shopping is fun! Doesn’t it help third world countries that are making our clothes put food on their tables and afford roofs over their heads if we buy fast fashion?
I think we really need to ask ourselves what we need and why do we need it. We all want to look our best, just as we want to eat healthy foods and keep out bodies in shape. But learning to regulate consumption in our diets is just as important is learning to curtail spending on our clothes.
Labor is cheap and human rights a low priority in third world countries where fast fashion is manufactured. The factories producing these clothes are not regulated or inspected, so standards are non existent, and working conditions often unsafe. The well established corporations contracting for these goods are not responsible for the conditions of these workplaces; building owners are not regulated; no one is financially responsible for the devastation that this industry produces.
Fast fashion boils down to cheap fashion, which is one of the keys to understanding this industry’s problem. We are not paying the people who make our clothes a living wage. The money we spend on fast fashion is not financing a healthy industry. Employees are at risk, buildings are collapsing, pollution is widespread with no end in sight. None of the money we spend on fast fashion is paying to solve any of these problems.
For fashion to be healthy, the cost of your clothing has to have enough overhead built in to be redirected into improvements. The money you currently spend on inexpensive clothing will have to increase to account for these changes. The cost of fashion will have to cover reversing pollution and improving the infrastructure. So just as fashion used to be one of the more expensive line items in a family’s budget, for this industry to repair itself, it will have to become that way again.
As a circular fashion economy begins to explore and experiment with fast fashion alternatives, new cost structures are emerging that are both effective and fashionable. While some of them may go by the wayside, and others catch on like wildfire, my personal believe is that reuse is at the core of fashion health. Reuse keeps clothing out of landfill. None of the pollution that resulted in producing that original garment will be repeated. Business models such as trading or renting clothing provides the freshness of ‘new’ that consumers expect.
Reuse also buys us time. As we learn to shop responsibly, and keep the clothing that we have rather than replacing it, we are slowing down the fast fashion engine. And while reuse does not immediately invest in a healthy industry, it does allow us to step on the brakes while we reflect and build on more sustainable practices.
Fashion boils down to a simple common denominator: we all want to look good to others. The growth of the personal health and fitness industry is an excellent example of this. According to PolicyAdvice, this industry is growing at 8.7% year over year. Personal Trainers, a career that did not exist until the late 1900s, now brings in an average salary of $40,000/year.
So when are we going to apply our interest in health and fitness to style and fashion? When are we going to slow down and spend the same amount of time that we spend at the gym on our personal wardrobes? When do we adorn our beautiful bodies with environmentally healthy and personally flattering clothing?
My fashion advice is to invest in a stylist, friend or professional, who can help you understand and define your personal style. Take them shopping with you, or invite them into your wardrobe to help you evaluate what your best styles and colors are. This will go a long way toward helping you make fashion purchases in the future that will not end up in the recycle bin. Because frankly, you are worth it! And so is the environment.
Photo by @suzmcfaddenphoto
To follow Darcy Fowkes, check out her Instagram handles @darcyfowkes (for green fashion designers), @couturedarcy or @darcycouture2021 (for her upcycled fashion designs).