Making clothes has always been a passion for me. Since I was a child, I’ve been sewing & refashioning clothes in some form or another, it’s called upcycling these days. To be able to make a living as a Designer/ Pattern Maker has always been a privilege for me. These days though, I find myself troubled by the amount of fashion produced and the consequences of our growing consumption. The Fashion Industry is much more complicated than it might seem, with long supply chains and multiple sales channels. The emergence of the fast fashion business model in the market place challenges us all on many levels.
Quick to market, cheap & on trend, the fast fashion model delivers new product in store every week. Many successful fashion empires today are built around this model where over consumption is the key to success. We have a generation of young people who only know fast fashion. More clothes, more often, for much less money than in the past.
There are 2 big issues with fast fashion – the sheer volume produced and the use of labour in developing nations like Bangladesh & Cambodia to make the garments. The first thing we need to understand is that we simply don’t need the quantity of clothes we have in our wardrobes. I challenge you to go to your wardrobe now and count how many garments you have. The number will astound you!!! Then maybe go and ask your Nanna or Mother how many pieces of clothing they had when they were 20, I think it will be an interesting contrast. Next time you’re going for that impulse buy, ask yourself if you really need it? The amount of land fill we’re creating from discarded clothes is phenomenal. Synthetic fibres do not break down, it’s that simple.
Generally speaking I don’t have a problem with utilizing skilled labour in developing countries, it can be a great form of employment for many women who need to contribute to their families income but not if they’re not paid correctly. But let me be very clear – there is no excuse for not paying living wages to workers. Ever. The compression of pricing & profit margins often means that it is the worker making your clothes who looses out, not the global companies they work for.
How can you make decisions about what you’re buying? Be informed, take an interest in your favourite brands and how they manufacture their garments. I’m not saying to stop buying fashion (that raises a whole other set of issues) but think about your needs, your lifestyle and why you are buying. There are many ethical fashion businesses who are making an impact on the fashion landscape with their awareness and thoughtful approach to sustainable design & garment production – support the brands who show more transparency. There is so much information online these days and many fashion brands are attempting to confront these issues but without feedback from consumers the cycle will continue.