During my childhood, my parents would often fix months for shopping. March was designated for spring shopping, September for winters, and October for occasional shopping. Indulging in fashion was a luxury and always almost out of reach. As I grew up, eCommerce invaded our lives and accessibility and convenience became the standard. Be it cab booking, grocery shopping, study courses or shopping for clothes, everything was made available at the click of a button.
Today, my friends splurge money on the latest outfits released on H&M and Zara, flaunting their fashion taste without overspending. But do we need as many clothes as we buy? The correct way to ask this question would be: do we use things as long as we used to? The studies answer in the negative.
With the internet’s penetration into our lives to an extent that our daily habits are driven by technology, an increasing number of people with disposable income, and reduction in the value of the expense we make on clothing, it has become easier, more than ever, to spend on clothes. Deep discounts, variety, and alternatives (both online and offline) have given people a chance to buy, without thinking much. But it’s not just our fault.
We are being tempted with the servings of brands like Forever21, H&M and ZARA, allowing us to wear ‘straight-from-runway’ outfits without waiting for the other mainstream stores to launch their ‘New Arrivals’ season. In the industry, this production-to-purchase behavior is called fast-fashion and it is quickly killing us, both in terms of economy and environment.
Oxford defines fast-fashion as ‘inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trend’. As Instagram records every moment of our lives, repeating clothes has been marked off the textbook and instead of ‘fresh’ looks, our focus is more on the ‘new’. The studies show that a consumer bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000 but kept each garment only half as long. The need for the new is not only hurting the pocket but also the people responsible for production.
Developing countries are often treated as debris of development, providing the developed economies with cheap labour and extra hours. Already suffering from anomalies like low wages and poor working conditions, workers in developing counties will have to bear more unpleasant consequences, if the demand for fast fashion grew. As shared by GreenBiz,
“Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make about $96 per month. The government’s wage board suggested that a garment worker needs 3.5 times that amount in order to live a “decent life with basic facilities.”
According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, clothing production approximately has doubled in the last 15 years. The industry and specifically, apparel and footwear account for 8.1 per cent of global green gas emissions, making the negative impact of increased production clearly evident.
One cotton shirt takes 713 gallons of water for its production, a quantity enough to meet an individual’s drinking need for 2.5 years. By consuming non-biodegradable material, not only are we consuming natural resources in unprecedented amounts but also returning the kind of waste to the planet that would take almost 200 years to diminish or compost completely.
Economically, the growth in sales of brands like ZARA and H&M have impacted brands who did not succumb to this trend but in the near future, fearing oblivion, might do away with seasonal offerings and pressurise the supply chain department to produce more clothes quickly.
Rentals, fabric recycling, resale and refurbishment models have emerged as strong alternatives to fast-fashion. Instead of buying clothes, people can rent looks, allowing them to free up space in the closet. Or brands can take up worn material from consumer, refurbish it and resell it at a lower price. Delving in the secondary market like resale, brands can control their image and the usage of their products by the consumers.
People looking for sustainable fashion are demanding a disruption in the market. This has now also become a need of the hour. The McKinsey&Company released a new report titled “State of Fashion 2019” wherein they talked about the shift in consumer behaviour, the possible rise of rental economy in retail and its capability to challenge the fast-fashion economy.
“Rental, resale and refurbishment models lengthen the product lifecycle while offering the newness consumers desire.”
No matter how tempting a new deal might look, we need to recognize our responsibility and assess our needs. Not only are we now responsible for ourselves but also for our planet.
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