Fashion + Throw-Away Culture

On trend, but at what cost?

In a world of everyone trying to keep up, the next best thing is around the corner. Fast fashion has helped fashion lovers keep up with the latest trends at a cheap price. But at what cost? Unfortunately, the planet. 

Stores like Missguided, Forever 21, and H&M produce on trend clothing, made of cheap materials. It has been found that over 60% of all clothing is thrown out within a year; ending up in a landfill or incineration. It’s no surprise that the fashion industry is one of the worlds biggest polluters. 

Time to invest

It’s not that we, as consumers, are uninterested in becoming more sustainable. We just want to keep on trend and for the most part, cannot afford higher end clothing. A survey conducted by Elle UK, found that 90% of women wanted to know more about sustainability and 51% wanted to know what they could do in order to become more sustainable. 

It makes proper sense to invest in timeless pieces that you can wear over and over again throughout the years, rather than constantly purchase cheap clothing that will be out of style within a few months. But that isn’t the world we live in, we always want to appear the most chic, and on trend. So what is one to do? 

The three “R”s

Growing up, we learned about the three “R’s”, reduce, reuse, recycle. But why hasn’t this concept come into play within the fashion market? Stacey Dooly states, “I feel like we understand what plastic does to the Earth, but I had no idea what cotton was capable of”. The process of making one cotton t-shirt emits about 5 kilograms of carbon dioxide. To put this into perspective, this is about the same amount produced during a 12-mile car drive. Not only this, but 1,750 liters of water is used all in the making of a cotton T-shirt. 

Jeans are even worse! They consume around 3,000 liters of water due to the dyeing and bleaching involved. In 2017, the fashion industry used around 79 billion cubic meters of water. It is estimated by the Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group that by 2030, it will increase by 50%. These numbers are concerning, so fast fashion companies need to step up and find a different approach to help sustainability efforts. 

The future is circular!

Not all fashion companies are turning a blind eye however. H&M is working on a plan to make its apparel from recycled or sustainably sourced materials, all by 2030. They started off in 2010 with its Conscious Collection. In order for a label to be named “conscious” it must contain at least 50% of sustainable materials. By 2030, H&M is aiming to operate an 100% circular business model

The future is circular! A circular business model is the assurance that there is no end of life for materials. The Ellen McArthur Foundation is working to Make Fashion Circular. Fast Fashion is in no way going to disappear. Lovers of fashion want to be on trend at a price they can afford. It is up to to the beloved fashion houses to take charge and take accountability. New business models must be created in order to ensure that clothes are made from safe and renewable materials. A circular economy for clothing will allow old clothes to be turned into new. Thanks to companies such as H&M working to start the movement, we are closer than ever!

What we can do…

2030 seems like a lifetime away, so how can we work to be more sustainable? First, organize your wardrobe in order to truly see all your pieces so you don’t make thoughtless purchases on articles you may have forgotten. When you can see what is in your closet, you can become creative with styling! 

Think before you buy. Buy things you know you will wear for long periods of time. A fun way to think of this is to think, would you want to run into an ex in this outfit? If you will feel confident, then by all means purchase! You can also avoid purchasing fabrics that use microfibers. These types of fabrics end up polluting oceans and are difficult to clean due to their tiny particles. 

Buy less, choose well, make it last

As Vivienne Westwood said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last”. Make sure you don’t impulse buy, and that your pieces are of good quality. If you want to get rid of the old, donate it! Give clothes a second life and help recycle. Do your part in circular fashion. This can be as easy as donating to secondhand stores and thrifting! It is up to us to make the small steps to sustainability within our daily life. Working to be sustainable does not mean you will not be on trend. It just means you should put the effort in to be educated in your purchases. These small steps are the building blocks to a sustainable future, and keep us away from a throw-away culture.

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