Fashion + Throw-Away Culture

Can we throw-away the throw-away culture?

In the UK, 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothing are disposed of in landfill per year. Instead of repairing, mending or thrifting old clothes, many are buying and disposing of clothes that are barely even a year old. It has created a ‘throw-away culture’ that feeds off trends, fashion statements and influencer culture. So, how has throw-away culture grown so fashionable? Why won’t it ever go away? And what can we do to stop it?

The growth of throw-away culture

The new norm of style over substance has sky-rocketed over recent years. The growth in technology and the internet has aided many to add to throw-away culture, with the likes of influencers and Instagram at the centre. The false realities of a different outfit a day have subconsciously promoted to many that an outfit should only be worn once and never re-worn again. In 2019, the Chairwoman for the Environmental Audit Committee stated, “People can’t wear the same thing twice” and that “You buy something, wear it once, take a snap and get rid of it.”. It has inevitably become a popularity contest of who can get the most likes, shares and comments on what people are wearing.

It has become a question of briefly feeding people’s egos online than actually taking into consideration if the clothes they wear will last more than their Instagram photo. This proves that throw-away culture has become an absent-minded norm in everyday life. People are more likely to shop for now, rather than later, and are less likely to invest in that singular fashion staple as it wouldn’t be ‘trendy’ enough. An example of this is the huge influx of sales in loungewear throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, ASOS reported a 329% influx of profits due to the demand for loungewear and sportswear throughout the pandemic. What will happen when life gets back to normal again? It is highly doubtful that we will see people dressing the way they are now for ‘normal’ life, exclaiming that we are buying for now rather than later.

The next best thing?

By buying for the present and not the future, there is a constant demand for the next best thing. It is what has kept fast fashion and online businesses running. With access to a supercomputer in our pocket, it has become so easy to click a singular button and order an outfit straight to our homes. Impulse buying online has kept throw-away culture in demand, with many disposing of these garments after little use. So, what can be done to stop it?

Issues of tackling throw-away culture

The easiest way to tackle throw-away culture is to turn to slow fashion alternatives. Slow fashion typically promotes timeless wardrobe staples that can be used again and again. It also typically has long-lasting wearability that fast fashion lacks. However, to choose slow fashion requires more time and money. This blog by Kelly Compton explores how the fashion industry can be classist. Compton speaks of how many sustainable and ethical brands cost more than fast fashion. Can anything truly be done to conquer throw away culture when fast fashion is so accessible?

An alternative to throw-away culture is to thrift clothes. However, thrifting at vintage shops, charity shops and online stores such as Depop is incredibly time-consuming. It continues the classist issue; people with more money are more likely to have more time to find a perfect staple piece. When thrifting, you have to have the time to look through each individual item in the store. This is even disregarding the ability to find a garment in your size, never mind a hidden gem. To tackle the time issue, apps such as Vinted and Depop were born. However, as Berkeley’s Economic Journal reports, there is an extortionate profit many sellers receive when selling off those very apps. Buying a pair of shorts worth £10 in-store are easily sold for £45 online.

What can we actually do?

The easiest way to throw away the throw-away culture is to adjust your own perspective. Keep educated on the subject. With this, you can slowly be able to resist impulse buys and start to buy clothes that transcend trends. Harper’s Bazaar published an article stating that adopting a 30 wears test when shopping (asking yourself ‘would I wear this 30 times?’) helps create a new mindset. It is trends and information like this that can truly help to look to the future with fashion instead of the present. By changing our attitude to shopping, we can make it substance over style just by changing our perspective.

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