Once you start finding about veganism, minimalism and zero waste chances are you’ll find out about the monstrosity that is fast fashion. Upon reading the book by Rebecca Cline, ‘Overdressed’, my eyes were opened to the extent to which we consume clothing. Yes, I have previously thought about how ethical my clothes were in the fact that they were made overseas and most likely by an underpaid worker…but things have changed, no longer are there child workers making jeans from cancer causing chemicals, right?
Turns out, I was so so so very wrong. Most clothing brands we all know, including high end retailers are extremely unethical in the production of their clothes. Not only this, but the clothes are meant to be disposable and encourage consumers to spend less on more…in the 1950s there were 2 clothing seasons in a year, cold and hot. Nowadays, clothing is switched out every week. Quality of clothing has dramatically reduced to nothing and gone are the days of fabric shops. I also found it interesting to note that the average family in the 1950s spent 17% of their income on clothing and only had around 7 outfits in their closets…they bought truly quality clothes that lasted and the rest they made themselves. Clothes were also more expensive, with a medium priced shirt equating to around $100 (adjusted for inflation) – much unlike the $3 shirts we see today.
We are drawn to flashy stores filled with cheap prices (and cheap quality) clothes with ‘sale’ signs…always on the look out for the cheapest deal we can steal. Mind you, it’s not only somewhat ‘shabby’ looking stores that are involved in the fast fashion business, stores such as Forever 21 and H&M receive new stock daily, encouraging consumers to regularly visit stores in order to pick up the latest clothing despite perhaps already owning 3 of the same jumper.
I always thought that high end clothing was made ethically and would last years – that’s what you pay for, isn’t it? Apparently it’s not so…expensive clothing is also made by off shore factories with cheap materials and unethical methods. People are just so drawn to the idea of owning expensive clothing and the societal value that comes along with owning such items.
There seems to be 2 extremes in the world of fashion – extremely cheap or extremely expensive, and yet, consumers aren’t necessarily paying for higher quality and ethical manufacturing. Cline also discusses how often high end designers collaborate with cheaper stores such as Target in creating lines of unethical clothing made with cheap textiles, and yet people flock to these stores to pick up the ‘name’ that equates with stature.
When it comes to ‘quality clothing’, manufacturers disguise the clothing with surface details to make the clothing appear good quality to the consumer, when in fact it is made with low-grade fabrics. Take Forever 21 for example, a large amount of their clothing is embellished with all sorts of glitter, sequins and ruffles to make them appear more ‘expensive’ and ‘better quality’ but in fact they are still the same cheap, fast fashion items found elsewhere.
After learning an abundance of information about fast fashion and how pretty much every single store is a part of it I decided to check out my closet. Majority of my clothes were manufactured in China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Also, my clothes were predominantly made from polyester, cotton and viscose. The days of quality natural fibres and Australian made clothes seems to be long gone.
For me, the whole issue is scary. It seems that thousands of cheap, unhealthy clothes are being mass produced daily and sold in our consumerist society for people like you and me to buy, wear once and get rid of. Can we look beyond the item and see who made it, see the tonnes of clothing in landfill and energy required to produce it. Our culture of endless consumption was and never will be healthy.
Reconsider what you buy and the deep repercussions it has. Who made the clothing? Who is benefiting from your purchase? Do I really need more stuff? It’s definitely food for thought…