Conscious Consumerism

photo from trustedclothes.com

I’m guilty of it, and so are most of you reading this…

Do you ever wonder how you can stand in front of a full closet, in utter amazement with how you have nothing to wear? The likely answer is that it is all due to the fast fashion industry.

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a term referring to a phenomenon in the fashion industry where production processes are increasing in amounts and speed in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Since the fashion industry is designed to make you feel “out of trend” after one week, most fashion outlets churn out new trends for 52 “micro-seasons” a year. This way consumers are convinced that they need more.

Not only that, but the clothes they are manufacturing are not made to last. That’s why those $4 leggings from Forever 21 rip after you wear or wash them a couple times. BUT it’s okay, right? Because we can just go buy another pair… I mean come on! It’s only $4!

What’s so bad about that?

It’s an endless cycle. Buying clothes that are cheaply made, and tossing them when they either go out of trend or rip apart.

We’re convinced that we need to replace everything we have with newer versions of the same thing. Whether it’s a cool new iPhone model that does exactly the same thing as it’s predecessor or a different way to style a basic pair of jeans and a T-shirt. We invite new products into our lives without really considering if we need them or not.

The next question to ask is, “where does all that waste go after we’ve dumped it and replaced it?”

That’s a great question, but the answer isn’t so great.

With fashion being a $1.2 trillion industry, globally, the more styles they provide and market to us, the more purchases we will make, and the more waste we all produce. The US is the top exporter of used clothing to developing nations, but now that cheap clothing is becoming increasingly more available in developing nations, there isn’t much demand for the used clothing from the US.

There’s more waste than can be handled; so clothes that can’t be re-sold are unfortunately heading to shredding bins, or likely being burned.

Fast fashion is indeed an environmental issue, just as much as it is an issue of ethics.

The unethical means through which these clothes are manufactured is a discussion for a separate post. But, to paint a picture, companies are able to sell to us at low price-points because of the low cost of the labor it takes to manufacture the clothes that stores like Gap, H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 are selling. A documentary called The True Cost goes into details of this side of the industry.

How did you think Forever 21 could sell you those leggings — that some of us own (even myself) — for so cheap and keep their in-store stock nice and healthy?

Some stores are moving away from the addictive nature of fast fashion, such as H&M’s conscious line and the stores recycling program — a customer recycles their used textiles/clothes they no long want and they receive a coupon for 15% off their next purchase.

A step in the right direction, sure, but there is more we can all do.


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