Smart Shorts II: Combating fast fashion

Good afternoon! Today I am bringing to you another “smart short” – this one is covering the sorts of things you can get involved in to combat fast fashion. I hope you like it!

A person’s wardrobe is for many the basis of their creativity (Bang, 2019). The fast fashion industry has exacerbated this belief, encouraging two coexisting but paradoxical motivations in consumers: the need to stand out with your appearance, and the need to fit in with it. As a result, people are buying more clothing than ever to both keep up with the current trends, but also express their own style and individuality.

Globalisation has allowed clothing to be produced at lower prices, making fashion accessible to more people, but lowering the value attributed to each garment – consumers justify their mass-buying on its inexpensiveness, but do not hesitate to dispose of that which is no longer fashionable (Claudio, 2007). This represents an increase in the belief of apparent obsolescence in clothing, as when once items were repaired, repurposed or tailored to fit another person, perfectly wearable clothes are now being thrown away (Claudio, 2007).  But in recent years, a rise in voluntary simplicity, minimalism and other so-called “anti-fashion” movements have arisen, leading to shifts in consumer consciousness towards more sustainable purchasing (Bang, 2019).

“Fast fashion is low cost clothing collections based on the latest fashion trends and its fast response system encourages disposability” – Bang (2019)

In much the same way as “slow food” (which focuses on sourcing locally grown and seasonal produce) emerged as a result of “fast food” in Western Europe, “slow fashion” has developed from the spread of “fast fashion” (Pookulangara & Shephard, 2013). Consumers are becoming more aware that over-consumption becomes an addiction and are instead becoming more attentive to the impact which the rapid production of garments is having on workers, ecosystems and wider society (Pookalungara & Shephard, 2013). This in turn alters consumer patterns, encouraging reuse and repurposing, but also voluntary simplicity or shifting priorities towards product longevity rather than style.

“Slow fashion does not refer to time as the name suggests, but rather to a philosophy of attentiveness, which is mindful of its stakeholders’ respective needs” –  Pookalungara & Shephard (2013)

One example of slow fashion in practice is the development of a “capsule wardrobe”. This encourages consumers to have fewer clothing items in their possession, and to invest in more durable, timeless pieces of higher quality (Bang, 2019). At present, the average American woman owns 103 items in her closet, believing themselves to wear around 61% of it (Bang, 2019). Reducing the number of items you wear to below 50 is therefore a huge challenge for many, but can be beneficial both for the participant and for the wider environment. In their study into the motivations and experiences of having capsule wardrobes, Bang (2019) reported findings from seven participants who wore 33 items for 2 months (an adaptation of Project 333, which is the most well-known minimalist project to reduce wardrobe size). They found that participants focused more on the quality and versatility of their items, rather than their fashion, and that in many cases restricting the number of clothes you own increases your creativity with them (Bang, 2019).  A more extreme example of this is the Uniform Project. Participants wear a single black dress for a full month (or even year), styling it in different ways each day, to raise money for the Akanshka Foundation, a charity which helps send children to school across India (http://matheiken.com/uniform-project).

Founder of the Uniform Project, Sheena Matheiken, styles a black dress in a number of ways, raising money for the Akanshka Foundation. Source: http://matheiken.com/uniform-project

Of course, creating a capsule wardrobe is not going to be a solution to the Western world’s addiction to fast fashion, but it could give valuable perspective when considering future purchases, and their life cycle impacts.  And it is this which is so badly needed at present, to minimise our resource use as a global society and ensure a closed-loop economy, where nothing goes to waste. So why not try it out?

Useful resources:

Project 333: “Wear just 33 items for 3 months and get back all the joy you were missing while worrying about what to wear”

Uniform Project: “For the next 365 days, I reinvented my little black dress solely using accessories that were either vintage, handmade, reused or donated. By the end of the year long challenge, the U.P site received over 2 million hits, gaining over 10,000 social media followers and raising over $100,000 in donations for the Akanksha Foundation.”

References

Bang, H. (2019) Personal Experiences of a Capsule Wardrobe (Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota) Available at: https://search.proquest.com/docview/2292081923?pq-origsite=gscholar (Accessed: 15/04/2020)

Pookulangara, S. & Shephard, A. (2013) Slow fashion movement: Understanding consumer perceptions—An exploratory study. Journal of retailing and consumer services20(2), pp. 200-206

Claudio, L. (2007) Waste couture: Environmental impact of the clothing industry. [online] Available at: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.115-a449 (Accessed: 15/04/2020)

Published by avleveri

Hi! I'm Anna, an environmental science graduate from the UK. My main interests (if you can't already tell from my blog posts) are sustainability, consumption, conservation, nutrition, fitness and food! Lots of food.

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