These sustainable brands try to make a lot of timeless designs so you shouldn't need to update your wardrobe constantly.
The increased cost of sustainable clothing isn’t necessarily due to them being “upmarket” or “fancy”. It is usually just a case of them being sourced and produced ethically. Can you say that a $6 shirt is a bargain over a $50 one if it requires exploitation to accomplish?
Increased prices for sustainable products come from raising the standard of life for employees and the processes that create the item. In countries that manufacture a lot of the world’s textiles, the minimum wage is unable to support a decent standard of living. Countries like Bangladesh are worried that if they raise their minimum wage, corporations will leave for cheaper, less ethical shores.
This isn’t about taking jobs away from third world countries which rely on the income from this industry, it’s about providing them with a living wage, rather than a minimum one.
If we speak with our wallets, it will force big companies like ASOS and Kmart to adapt to a sustainable market or be left behind.
It’s not about being perfect, it’s about trying to be aware and act on the information you have.
Fast Fashion Facts
One of the nicest ways to feel good and look good is in choosing what to wear.
But while fashion is a great way to express oneself, it’s important to understand the impact of fast fashion.
Fast fashion is the high-speed, low-cost explosion of the clothing industry since the 1990s. Streamlined production, accelerated design, marketing and online shopping were the fuel for the wildfire that the industry has become.
In the last few decades, the industry has undergone substantial growth, with estimates showing we now consume over 100 billion
pieces of clothing every year. This is twice as much as we were using in the year 2000 and equates to almost 14 new items of clothing per person on earth. Every year.
Research also suggests that due to availability and low cost, we refresh our wardrobe far more often. Consumers are keeping apparel nearly half as long as they were doing 15 years ago.
Now we all are probably aware that spending all our money on a new outfit isn’t ideal, what exactly makes fast fashion so bad?
Due to the high production and demand for new clothing, nearly 60%
of all new clothing, will end up in landfill, or an incinerator within one year of its production.
This extreme level of output and growth in the fashion industry is taking a toll on the environment. In 2015, the textiles industry produced 1.2 billion tonnes
of CO2 equivalent. That is 300 million tonnes more than all aeroplane emissions
of carbon dioxide in 2018.
As water shortages
become a serious issue worldwide, the cotton industry is hugely water-intensive. It’s estimated that to make one cotton shirt requires over 2,500 Litres of water. Cotton produced in Australia alone used almost 7 times more water (3150 GL) than all of Greater Melbourne (461GL) in 2018/19.
Due to the wild demand for new, cheap clothing, manufacturers took advantage of overseas workforces. Most of us have likely heard of the widespread reports of terrible conditions
for workers in these manufacturing plants.
Companies like K-Mart also advertise paying all their workers at least minimum wage. This is great for marketing but only holds them accountable to the minimum wage of the country in which the workers are employed. In Bangladesh, where a lot of international companies manufacture textiles, the minimum wage is only 30% of what’s required to live a decent life.
In 2013 the 8-story Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, causing over 1000 deaths
. This is regarded as one of the worst industrial accidents in history and some of the products being made were for Western retailers.
To quote Lucy Siegle
, the journalist and ethical fashion campaigner:
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere, is paying”
Just when you thought these enormous faceless corporations couldn’t get much worse, they surprise you. To keep up with extreme demand, large businesses have been caught (endlessly) taking the designs of independent artists without permission.
In 2018 USA company Old Navy used the exact design of an independent business
run by a single mum. After being harassed by the general public Old Navy pointed out in an email that the producer had no trademarks for the phrasing, graphic design or font on the shirts, so had no legal right to them.
Fun fact - Old Navy sports an annual revenue of $8 billion USD
, and won’t pay for their design work. Here’s
another short (84) list of examples of big business doing big business things.
So long as they’re in the clear legally (if not morally), or they make it too expensive to fight, these companies will continue to plagiarise artists.
At present, the clothing industry has had to cut corners in many ways to keep up with our insatiable appetite for new clothing. As we have learned with electric cars, solar panels, keep cups and plastic-free products, industry responds to demand. If we the consumer reduce our consumption of poor quality items in favour of durable and ethical pieces, the market will react and increase its sustainability and ethics.
Rest easy knowing that nobody has been exploited for your threads.