As a consumer, you are probably not surprised by the fact that the production of clothes leave a large carbon footprint. Fast fashion with its 'wear and tear' philosophy arguably uses the worst production practices, which has lead to the movement of slow fashion, trying to combat and minimize the clothing industry's effect on the planet.
Cheap clothes are rarely cheap when you look at how they are used and manufactured. Shopping and finding a "steal" comes with caveats, this doesn't mean spend all for your money on clothes. however, these cheap clothes often come from big fashion companies and rarely last long, because of the quality - which is low. According to BBC the lifespan of new fashion is two to ten years, with outerwear lasting the longest and basics like T-shirts and jeans the shortest. Quality doesn't always mean more expensive, but it's better to think quality over quantity. There are lots of clothes in your wardrobe that you do not use, donate them and actually use the clothes that you buy. Slow fashion is sustainable fashion, and we need to be more conscious of sustainability as consumers.
A thirsty production
Do you know what type of water that is being used in the production of your clothes, and where it comes from? Do you know where the production company located? Placing a production company in an area with scarce water supplies leads to less water for the locals and effects their lives negatively and can lead to famine and diseases.
Cotton, a fiber that can be found in most garments is the most environmentally demanding crop. But, cotton is biodegradable, unlike some manmade fibers. As explained by Alice Wilby, a sustainable fashion consultant for the Independent, the production process and cultivating of cotton is very water intensive. A single pair of jeans needs about 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water to make.
Consider the waste when according to BBC an average of 37 kilos of textiles per person in the US are thrown away. Globally, the number is 92 million tonne! That is a lot of water used to make the garments, plus what is the aftermath of the throwing? How much fabric gets re-used? How many garments could've been saved by giving away or mending?
Circular economy is the business practice where the produced products get re-used in some way, essentially re-making and re-purposing. The opposite of circular economy is linear economy, a type of economy we should move away from. The Ellen MacArthur foundation describes circular economy as " In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources". Circular economy means less waste. It means using materials that leave a small carbon footprint to produce as well as maintain.
How about recycling? Recycling of fabric is part of slow fashion, garments are broken down to fibers to create something new. Mending of clothes is also a good approach. Depending on how skilled you are, or become, you might just double your garments life cycle. And if it's not possible to mend the garment, make something new! With Up cycling and a healthy dose of creativity paired with the right skill the possibilities are endless!
When buying, ask yourself how does the company you buy from treat their workers? It's easier to find out the work environment for the office workers, but for those who actually produce the fabric and garment? Many times these types of jobs are re-located to countries where the workers health and safety are not the biggest priority in the production. Slow fashion also means treating workers well and make sure they work in a safe environment.
“Cheap fashion is really far from that. It may be cheap in terms of the financial cost, but very expensive when it comes to the environment and the cost of human life” -Sass Brown- Fashion educator and author.
- Buy vintage - (my personal favorite) no one's is going to show up in the same outfit and since it lasted at least two decades you know the quality is good.
- Up-cycling - someone slashed your shirt (for whatever reason), no problem, make a boyfriend/ girlfriend pillow by stuffing it. Or maybe a shopping bag? How well can you sew?
- Borrow - next time your friend finds you rummaging in her wardrobe asking to borrow her favorite top, tell her it's for the planet.
Don't be too trendy - trends tend to have a short shelf life, your clothes should not experience the same.