Once upon a time, most clothes and shoes were often hand made in the home country of their designer. They were what we would now call “expensive”, and because of the price, people took extremely good care of their items, as due to their cost the items would need to last almost a lifetime.
These days however, with consumers now driving fashion trends as opposed to fashion designers and therefore driving down the cost of fashion, the world of “fast fashion” has almost completely dominated the way we think and buy our clothes. We want the latest trend in our hands now, at an affordable price. When clothes cost almost the same as a large coffee, it’s hard to resist buying it, indeed in every colour. And when we get bored of said items, or when the items fall apart after only a handful of wears, we think nothing of throwing it away and possibly buying it again. However, while fast fashion is certainly friendly to our wallets, it also comes at a more expensive cost in the long run to ourselves and the planet.
If you’re not familiar with fast fashion, think of retailers such as H&M, Zara, Forever 21, TopShop, Nasty Gal, Asos, Boohoo and Missguided. These retailers are typically restocked on a regular basis – in some cases every 2-3 days, hence the term “fast fashion” – all to keep feeding fashion consumers’ continuing need for new, on-trend, cheap clothes.
There are certainly some benefits of having access to fast fashion – for example, not everyone can afford a pair of $1,500 Chloe Susanna studded boots, but a pair of very similar ones from Zara at $200 (or less if on sale) seems more affordable, right?
Now let’s look at the mathematics of our fashion consumption. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend approximately $3400 per year on clothing and apparel, or $283.33 per month. A good percentage of this fashion expenditure (some studies suggest even as high as 40%) is on fast fashion. Further, this study suggests that women have around $500 worth of unworn clothing in their closets! How often have you come home with something that was cheap, only to realise that it didn’t actually look as good as when you tried it on in the store (if you did try it on)? And because it was so cheap, the effort of going back to the store to return it wasn’t worth it? This could be money that goes toward your $1,000 project!
Not only can fast fashion have an impact on our financial health, it also has a lasting impact on the health of our environment. Textile waste due to fast fashion consumption adds up to billions of pounds every year, and with synthetic fabric such as polyester and viscose taking years to break down, that is a lot of landfill. When you look at the impact the fashion industry has on the environment, it is not surprising that fashion is the second largest polluter of the planet after the oil industry. And let’s not forget the issue of cheap labour in order to pass on the cheap cost to consumers.
This only touches on some of the reasons why we should reconsider fast fashion. If you’d like to know more about the impact of fast fashion, the movie True Cost gives a confronting view of the effect of fast fashion on people and the planet. The book Overdressed is a great read on how fast fashion is changing us as a society, how it has impacted business, and of course its effect on the environment. On my blog I give a few alternatives to shopping from fast fashion outlets to become a more responsible fashion consumer.
Stay tuned next week when I talk about how we can buy less by buying well (and some budget-friendly ideas to snag those Chloe Susanna boots at half the retail price)!