The real price of your clothes

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The majority of our clothes undergo a morally and environmentally unethical lifespan, right from their production, until we decide we don’t want them anymore. The lifecycle of clothing goes unquestioned, and operates suspiciously under the radar. When we’re shopping, why is it we never stop to question where our clothes have come from and where they will be in 20 years? Is the silence surrounding this topic being used to cover up serious ethical breaches, both environmental and moral?

Fashion has become increasingly fast, from the pace of production overseas until it reaches our stores in Britain. Even the amount of time we wear our clothes has gotten shorter, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the average number of times a piece of clothing is worn decreased by 36% between 2000 and 2015. The quick pace of turnover of the micro-seasons of fashion make the industry particularly problematic. In the mid-twentieth century, the fashion industry ran on four seasons a year; winter, summer, spring and autumn. Today, a micro-season in fashion lasts approximately one week, until the next collection enters the stores.

Fast fashion emphasises replicating trends from catwalks, a rapid rate of production, and low quality materials in order to quickly bring inexpensive styles to the public. Unfortunately, harmful impacts on the environment, human well-being, and our expenditure, have been the result of fast fashion. The low cost and poor quality of fast fashion garments and the short amount of time they are in season for, ultimately mean that it is not long until they are thrown away. Clothing has almost become ‘disposable’, an example that sparked outrage last year was Missguided’s £1 bikini. This product highlighted the nature of fast fashion – selling poor quality, cheap, and short lived products, destined for landfill.

So, what now?

Opposing fast fashion, the counter movement, ‘slow fashion’ is the way towards raising ethical standards in the fashion industry. Slow fashion favours mindful manufacturing, fair labour rights, natural materials, and long lasting garments. It encourages us to buy fewer clothes at a higher quality and get the most out of their wear. Most importantly, the movement values fair treatment of people and the planet.

Many people involved in the slow fashion movement are looking to use more environmentally friendly materials in clothes production. Some companies are looking to use waste from wood, fruit and other natural materials to create their textiles instead of synthetic materials. Others are attempting alternative ways of dyeing their fabrics or searching for materials that biodegrade more easily once thrown away.

What you can do to help:

  • Start by learning to appreciate the clothes that you already have, rather than what you could have.
  • Swap clothes with friends, this is a great way to recycle your clothes and get something in return, increasing the diversity of your wardrobe.
  • Learn to embrace small blemishes on clothes or get them fixed, instead of using it as an excuse to buy more.
  • Reduce your online shopping, the temptation to have a browse is often too hard to resist, but think of the carbon footprint of your shopping.
  • Consider how often you need to wash your clothes. Cutting down on washing can help to further reduce the carbon footprint of your wardrobe, while also helping to lower water use and the number of microfibres shed in the washing machine.
  • Use sites like Depop to pass your clothes on to their next home and earn money! How you dispose of the clothes at the end of their useful life is important. Throwing them away so they end up in landfill or being incinerated simply leads to more emissions.
  • Give unwanted clothes to charity shops.
  • Shop more sustainable brands.

Words by Charlotte Crompton

Edited by Lauren Wilkins

Flora and Katie are your fashion editors

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