Updated: Oct 25, 2019
Last month we moved from a 4000 square foot home to a 1400 square foot apartment. As I was preparing for my downsizing, it became clear that my overstuffed closets and draws no longer represented my relationship to clothes.
Last year, in an effort to support slow fashion designers and the sustainable fashion movement, I began to purchase quality over quantity and garments from small batch independent fashion creators. I loved knowing that my new purchases were sourced and made in ways that supported micro economies and the art of loving labor.
In looking at my multiple closets and drawers filled with years of passion purchases, bargain designer goods and an array of one time wears I felt a surge of guilt and remorse. While style is important to me, why was it that I needed more of it, and why didn't I care as much as I do about what i put in my body (organic, healthy, slow cooked meals) as I did on my body?
Needing more, fast fashion, the age of Instagram and the latest designer whatever, is a recipe for environmental and economic disaster. I started digging into this and found that while there is a robust "sustainable fashion" movement in Europe and other parts of the world, many of my beautiful, brilliant friends, are not aware of the term or slow vs fast fashion or what the fashion industry is doing to our planet and economy.
Here are some fast facts. In a report released by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation in 2017 I learned:
Clothing is massively underutilised. Worldwide, clothing utilisation – the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used – has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago.
Less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, representing a loss of more than USD 100 billion worth of materials each year.
Large amounts of non- renewable resources are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short period, after which the materials are largely lost to landfill or incineration. It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.
And in a January, 2019 blog published by the World Resources Institute, I discovered:
Making a pair of jeans produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles.
Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.
It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person’s drinking needs for two-and-a-half years.
Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make about $96 per month. The government’s wage board suggested that a garment worker needs 3.5 times that amount in order to live a “decent life with basic facilities.”
A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam and other countries.
Rapid consumption of apparel and the need to deliver on short fashion cycles stresses production resources, often resulting in supply chains that put profits ahead of human welfare.
Simply put, if we don't reverse the fashion production cycle and consumer behaviors of women in relation to fashion, we will continue to see the industry massively destroy our planet.
Here's my plan. I'm committing to bring consciousness to every purchase I make. If I slow down and think about it, I may not buy it. If I do buy something new, I may give three pieces away. If I can support independent designers who are sustainable and slow, I will. I will give thought to the lifecycle of each garment I covet.
Are you with me?