Do you know where your clothes come from? Do you recognize if they are made well? When was the last time you had something altered? Can you tell the difference between polyester and wool?
Maybe you can, but ask any millennial, and chances are they don’t. But they certainly know what a ‘haul’ is and how to look for one on YouTube. In the span of one generation we’ve moved from a society that valued quality-made clothing to one that values convenience, disposability and fast trends.
The problem with this new value is that it is not sustainable.
Sustainability has been described as ‘the capacity to endure; the endurance of systems and processes”. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability in Fashion stems out of the understanding that the process of manufacturing is in itself a system and that in order to continue to exist, it needs to consider the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.
The impossibility of fast fashion lasting another generation comes from the constant demand to meet its needs. Fast fashion dictates that a new trend is in vogue every 3-6 weeks. There are fast fashion houses that produce up to 1 million pieces per month. That’s because the average North American consumer buys approximately 1 piece of clothing per week.
It becomes impossible for the factories to continue to operate under such demanding conditions and keep their workers compensated justly and fairly. People break under pressure.
Considering that most of these fast fashion items are not of good quality, once they are discarded they end up in the trash or donated. The problem with donating items is that because they are poor quality they are often unusable.
Did you know that making polyester yields up to 9 times more CO2 emissions than cotton and it does not biodegrade since it is an oil product? It becomes impossible for our landfills to hold the amount of discarded clothing that does not decompose.
It becomes impossible for our fields to accommodate the demands of consumption put on them. How much more cotton can we produce without exhausting our land? Environmentally speaking you have to add the use of pesticides on those fields and the process of dyeing and weaving the fabric that end up in rivers and as waste.
It is all a very overwhelming and growing problem that many of us prefer to ignore than to tackle alone. However, many are beginning to see that there needs to be a change in our process; in our system. And so, slowly one by one there will be changes. As consumers, our job is to become more mindful; to not buy spontaneously, to not buy in to trends. To buy something to last, make sure it is made with quality and make it work for your own personal style not fads. Whenever possible to buy locally, buy ecologically friendly and recycled. All of these efforts will sooner or later translate to the bigger picture and make the difference we need to change directions 180 degrees.