A couple of months back I made the decision to stop buying new clothes. Down to trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle, whilst saving money. I hadn’t put much more thought into it then that. So I deleted all my shopping apps (apart from eBay and Depop) and set myself a challenge.
I spoke to my Mum about it, who has always told me to reign in the high street shopping and a couple of weeks into my challenge she texts me telling me to watch The True Cost on Netflix – which shows us an insight into the “Fast Fashion” industry. Fast fashion focuses on high speed with low cost, in order to deliver frequent new collections inspired by catwalk looks or celebrity styles.
After finishing the documentary, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I had been so oblivious and uneducated to the dark side of Fast Fashion. I try to be as much of a voice as I can be for veganism and the environmental impact the agriculture industry has on our planet, so it was crazy to find out that the fashion industry is actually the second largest polluter in the world (the first being oil.) This is due to discarded clothes that we either throw away or the shops we have donated to can’t sell, piling up in landfill sites (eleven million tons of waste from the US alone), fibre fragments flowing into the sea when clothes are washed and the mass production of leather causing greenhouse gas emissions.
But not only is it having a detrimental effect on our planet, it is also taking a huge toll on the lives of the garment workers. Who are over worked, underpaid and working in conditions that we can’t even comprehend. With an HR department to complain to, being unheard of.
In 2013, an eight-story factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing over one thousand workers. The building was in such a bad state because the owners couldn’t afford to maintain it, due to the shops we buy from wanting to keep manufacturing costs as low as possible, forcing the factory owners to cut costs, putting their workers lives in total danger. The garment workers have been left voiceless, after being beaten or killed when demanding basic human rights for better pay and improvement of the dangerous conditions they are working in. Encouraging people in the West to wake up and ask the question, “Who Made My Clothes?”
With our social media pages being full of fashion brands bringing out new collections each week or YouTubers filming shopping hauls on top of shopping hauls, it has become our new normal to unnecessarily indulge in things we don’t need. But taking responsibility of the way in which we shop, looking at the photo above and understanding our perpetual materialistic desires are exploiting the livelihoods of other human beings, is so important for the future of this planet.
The documentary also gives us an insight into the contamination in our water, GMO crops and the excessive use of fertiliser used in cotton farming and the impact that is having. More than 90% of cotton is now genetically modified, which uses an incredible amount of water, as well as toxic chemicals, and with the world now consuming around 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, many of which are made from cotton, it’s got to make us question whether we really do need that £4.99 t-shirt. Is it worth the damaging effects it has on our planet and on our health?
We can make an impact and be part of an ethical and sustainable future in fashion, by buying second hand, dying old clothes so they look different and new, swapping clothes with friends, taking care of the clothes we do own and mending them if they begin to age instead of throwing them out, but most importantly, by simply buying less.