The life cycle of clothing is a simple one. We decide to buy a garment, we take it home and then continue to wear it until we decide it’s no longer fit for purpose and then repeat this same cycle over and over.
But there are signs of change with certain consumers beginning to understand the impacts on the environment, caused by overwhelming strain from the garment industry. In addition to this, are growing ethical issues some of the worlds largest retailers face.
Something has to give
As consumers, we are now required to follow a stream of wider consciousness when buying clothing. Whether that be online or in-store. We are required to follow the cycle each garment takes before it comes to us and with that, we need to pose ourselves certain questions; does the brand produce their clothing ethically? Are the workers making these clothes paid a satisfactory wage for their labour? This is a good starting point but we should still go further.
Whether we like it or not the decision as to where we choose to spend our money on clothes ultimately says something about us. From an entirely environmental standing, the impact that the textile industry has on the planet is seismic. To put it into perspective the global consumption of clothing a year is approximately $1.34 trillion.
Despite much talk in the media about the environmental impact of fast-fashion it’s vital to look deeper. The ethical side to clothes manufacturing is paramount. We can’t turn a blind eye when we see our clothing is made in countries lacking in basic human rights. Some of the UK’s leading retailers are more than happy to manufacture their items in deprived countries that offer inhumane working conditions and don’t provide a living wage to workers whilst remaining blissfully ignorant to the fact.
Where to look
It would be wrong to insinuate that the whole clothing industry is a force for bad. As there are a growing number of brands starting to realise the importance of protecting the planet and how malpractice from their contemporaries ultimately leads to serious environmental and ethical issues. It is thanks to brands like Patagonia and Noah that are conscious of the negative practices of the industry that we are now starting to see real change.
Take a brand like Noah, a New York-based store founded by Brendon Babenzien (ex-Creative Director at Supreme) and wife Estelle. Their vision centres on creating a whole ecosystem around ‘doing things the right way’ or at least that’s how it feels on the outside. He has always been forthcoming in talking about the misgivings of the clothing industry and confronting that reality is something that has engaged his audience and propelled the brand into something really special. We are constantly made aware of the brands’ values via Instagram, a platform they have thrived on, using it to make their message clear, whether that be calling for social change or shining a light on their industry.
A post in February this year read ‘We are not a sustainable brand’. It shines a light on the notion that the clothing industry as one homogeneous force ultimately can not be sustainable but instead can be more conscious of what we can do with our clothes after we buy them and this involves many different parts. Firstly we have to think about where the item we’ve purchased came from and how and who it was made by and does that follow good ethical practice. Once we’ve made that decision we move onto thinking about the durability of the garment i.e. will it last, or are we just going to get a couple of wears out of it and throw it away.
So, with all this knowledge at our disposal how can we justify making the wrong choice in where we decide to put our money. There are many brands and high-street shops that continuously fail to address the issues that the clothing industry is having on the planet. But with this being said the only way to stop ‘fast-fashion’ is by significantly reigning in our shopping habits and getting maximum use out of each garment we purchase. Changing our shopping habits will directly impact on the sheer amount of clothes produced by brands and therefore it is us that has to make the change and they will follow suit.
3 ways you can change your shopping routines to help the planet
- Do your research – Before buying from a particular brand or store do your checks about how and where their items are manufactured.
- Buy less – This one isn’t easy there’s a natural temptation to shop in most people, but shopping less and buying clothes that last longer is the way to go.
- Buy vintage – buying vintage ensures that an item of clothing isn’t simply thrown away after someone is done with it, and therefore helps to limit the pressure on the manufacturing industry.