I believe that we, and the waves of the new generation, will look back on the
practices of today’s fashion industry in the same way we now look back at
Victorian Workhouses, with utter incredulous horror.
– Phoebe English, Designer
The House of Commons’ 2019 ‘Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’ report highlights the issues within the fashion industry, and what the government needs to do to tackle the second biggest polluting industry in the world.
The UN says that if the population should reach 9.6 billion by 2050 as its predicted, then we would need the equivalent of 3 planets to provide the natural resources required to sustain our current lifestyle. Consumption levels have increased in all industries, with the fashion industry playing a big part in the challenges we face on a global scale.
Professor Tim Cooper discusses the ‘throwaway culture.’ This term criticises the overconsumption within our society – we purchase items that we want (but don’t need) and then dispose of them when we no longer want them. These items have a longer life, but our attitude towards consumption is that items are short-lived and disposable. Clothes need to be produced with longevity in mind, but this will make no difference if consumer attitudes don’t change. Therefore, there needs to be a cultural change.
In order to tackle the issue of overconsumption, we need to look at our shopping habits and review them. How can we be smarter with our shopping? It isn’t only about shopping sustainable brands, but also looking at your budget and savings.
Before you purchase something, question whether you need it. Is there something in your current wardrobe that you could upcycle or repair? Is there a friend that has something in their wardrobe that is the same/similar? Sharing, repairing, and reusing clothes not only saves you money, but you make the most out of your current wardrobe.
If you do need to purchase something, look at how transparent the brand is. What’s their delivery/packaging like? Do they tell consumers where their clothes are produced? Who is making their clothes? Are they a fast or slow fashion brand? This may seem like a lot but if a brand is transparent, then all of their information about delivery/production can be found on their website. Taking this extra step to be conscious of where you are purchasing clothes means that the ecological, economic, cultural, and social impact is as minimal as can be.
We can shop in vintage and second-hand shops. We can learn how to repair our clothes. We can share our wardrobes with our friends and family. We can recycle and donate garments that we no longer want. Taking these steps and continuing to do them means that it will soon become a habit.
My own journey
I used to shop A LOT. But, after learning about fast fashion, I decided to alter my habits. I began by deleting all shopping apps from my phone and unfollowing fast fashion brands on social media. When I went shopping, I went into charity shops and vintage shops instead of big retail stores. I also started going through my own wardrobe, making piles of what I wanted to keep, donate, and recycle. Charity shops are becoming overrun with clothes, so before donating, it may be worth asking friends and family if they want any of the clothes.
I still LOVE shopping, but now I shop with sustainable fashion brands, use sites like Depop, and only purchase clothes when I need them. These small steps have completely changed my consumer habits for the better. From spending ridiculous amounts of money on clothes I wore a handful of times, I’ve become creative with my wardrobe, re-imagining outfits from clothes I already have.
I’ve recently been learning how to upcycle my clothes. I’m not the best sewer, but I was so proud when I made a t-shirt into a crop top for the first time. This is another step to altering my consumer habits, and making sure that my footprint on the fashion industry isn’t one that is detrimental to the environment.
Start with small changes. Delete those apps and unfollow those accounts. Studies have said that it takes about 2 months to form a new habit. Once you’ve made small changes and formed that habit, it will become easier to take bigger steps to changing your consumer habits. Trust me when I say, it is completely worth it.