Christmas is nearly here and the streets are full of last minute shoppers in what is arguably the busiest time of the year. And with the holiday shopping season in full swing, we want to send a reminder about being more mindful about our purchasing choices this year, particularly as far as fashion items are concerned.
When it comes to clothes, many fashion-conscious individuals will state that you can never have too many. Following style trends and dressing accordingly has the potential to become an addictive lifestyle. But what happens to clothes after they go out of style? How many of us actually wear the same pieces for years before we finally get rid of them?
According to EcoWatch, next to oil, the clothing industry is the largest pollution contributor in the world. Throughout the entire production process, waste in the form of toxic chemicals, unused fabric and raw materials contribute to the worsening pollution problem all over the world. Clothes that are discarded after years or months of use make their way to landfills, most of which do not go through recycling processes. As the economies strengthen and the consumer’s purchasing power improves, waste production from the fashion industry goes up.
A recent report from Wrap (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), states that the average piece of clothing in the UK lasts for 3.3 years before it is disposed of, be it is discarded. Other research puts the lifespan clothing in the UK at 2.2 years. For the younger demographic, it is likely closer to 6 months or a year. A UK-based fashion company tells its buyers to remember that a dress will stay in the owner’s wardrobe for only five weeks!! Wrap further estimates that we bought 1.13m tonnes of new clothing last year in the UK. At the same time, an estimated £30bn-worth hangs about gathering dust.
These figures are staggering and it cannot be maintained, but where does the responsibility lie and how do we affect change?
There’s an obvious contradiction between selling fashion and instructing us to buy less, this is what the growth of the industry relies on, particularly the fast fashion side. However, some industry leaders like Stella McCartney or Christopher Raeburn for example, promote making clothing with less waste. Or buying high quality clothing, in lower volumes, and moving away from the idea that a whole new collection of low cost clothing from the high street is an essential.
The problem is at it simplest, threefold – the addicted consumer following the very latest trends, the fashion retailer pushing demand and over producing, and lastly, the waste that comes from the factories themselves in terms of faulty pieces. We have looked at the statistics of clothing discarded by the consumer, but what about the brand itself? And what about at the factory?
High-street brands typically order huge volumes of clothing from their factories to cater to the mass market. These pieces are only expected to last until the end of the season and 40% of the stock will go into sales, or eventually be disposed of.
The production line itself contributes an estimated 3-5% of the waste from the fashion industry in the form of ready-made items that did not make it to the retailers due to poor quality or simply because they did not fulfil the order specifications.
Action needs to be taken to solve all of the above, and steps are being taken by a small number of designers, a few high street brands and an increasingly environment conscientious consumer.
Doing our bit
At Source Studio we work with contemporary emerging designers season through season. The care that goes into each design of which typically 30-100 units only will be made makes each style not only unique, but conscientiously created. Many of the brands we work with will use sustainable fabrics as a first choice, or non-synthetic or organic. They further want to know where the items are produced, and they use all left overs of fabric. What is not used we give to local charities in Saigon, either in the form of clothing we make in our ´down times´, or as fabric strips used for filling or toys or rugs.