When was the last time you stopped to think about where your $29.95 t-shirt came from? Or perhaps thought about what happens to your $40 shoes when you turf them out after a few trots around the block?
In the past women bought shoes and clothing to last, paying a little more for longer lasting quality. Now in our current retail environment we are increasingly being encouraged to purchase items to only wear once or twice before turfing them into the fashion abyss. It’s very easy to block from your consciousness thinking about where this fashion abyss may be, but it’s closer than you think – it’s landfill filling up your local tip and having a devastating effect on the environment.
The environment is the hot topic of the moment, it’s hip to be green – the celebs are paying big bucks for specialists to eco-makeover their lives and websites such as ecorazzi.com are popping up as gossip sites documenting celebrity green habits. Ironically it’s fashionable to be an environmentalist but fast fashion is currently not even close to being an environmentally friendly endeavour. Retailers such as Primark and H&M in the UK, Gap in the US and closer to home low price retailers such as Sportsgirl and Supre all encourage women to purchase more than they need and promote a high turnover in both a woman’s wardrobe and their coffers.
Lets start at the beginning of the production process. Inspiration is drawn from the catwalks of Europe and quickly reinterpreted by buyers and designers working for the high turnover retailers. Production is a fast affair, time is of the essence to beat their fellow retailers in getting their version in store. Cheaper materials are sourced with cost being the primary focus, not the environment. Fabric may have been woven in substandard factories, transported by older trucks with fuel inefficiencies and via ships or planes damaging our atmosphere through high carbon emissions. Once the clothing reaches the store, the focus is on volume, moving as much stock as possible. Buy one get one free, second pair half price, 50% off…all familiar chants bombarding us as we move through the stores.
We have all been there, bought three tops in three different colours, worn them a few times and then relegated them to ‘back of the wardrobe’ status. Value isn’t placed on the items making them easily forgettable. More expensive clothing however has a greater decision making buy in…how many times have you calculated the cost per wear before stepping to the register? The value is there, you treasure the item and have a connection with it and the designer it has come from.
So what is the answer? Although our dream wardrobes may perhaps have less clothes but of greater quality, in reality it is a woman’s prerogative to want to be a fashion chameleon – sharp suiting one day, casual comfort the next. In the future we will be seeing a greater emphasis placed on green clothing, not just in the materials used but the production processes that are followed. There will be even more focus on re-use and recycling of clothing, particularly the low-cost high-volume gear that is clogging up our garbage tips.
And what can you do? Be more strategic with your wardrobe, plan your purchases and put a little more thought into buying a couple of great tailored shirts and dresses that turn heads due to their quality and cut, rather than 5 cheaper alternatives that don’t have that classic staying power. And when you get bored, swap with your girlfriends. The environment will thank you for it!