Don’t buy for Fashion
We are not a fashion business
a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.
vogue, trend, craze, rage, mania, mode, fad, fancy.
The global apparel market is valued at 3 trillion dollars, 3,000 billion, and accounts for 2 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).1
The fashion industry, accounting for a staggering degree of carbon emissions, environmental pollution and human exploitation is a large thorn in the side of the the big climate question; the elephant in the room. We have a delicate window of time to initiate drastic change with dramatic actions, for the monumental change that is needed and we are already way behind schedule. Like any large scale issue, surface solutions are never effective or fast enough for the root problems at hand. Big business, if we can categorize the fashion giants into one tribe of shared ‘values’ - that is the ‘profit first, planet second’ ethos; are not getting the memo that our house is on fire and they trying to put it out with petrol.
It seems to the average consumer that some of the giants are doing good, bringing in new initiatives, a sustainability advisor and a few 'green pieces'. But we have to take into account the scale of production happening here. Can the post profit good be measured against the most important 'sustainability' measure - that of the carbon footprint? Like a single drop in an empty well they hope to fill their humanitarian, planetarian picture only in the means of their highest profit. We look at the well and go hey, isn't that good they are giving back; after the millions of litres of waters they have most likely used to grow cheap cotton leaving the land worse than before, as well as the local water resources polluted in the dying process, leaving so many local communities worse off environmentally but hey at least we are giving them jobs, right? Green washing is a feat of buying the trust of conscious consumers in clever marketing tactics.
It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt... enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days while the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to hosing down your lawn for 9 hours straight.
Does it make a difference, whether positive actions stem from positive intentions? Whilst social initiatives for better paid workers or design efforts for switching to organic materials are important steps; these timid efforts to walk to middle road between an old system (profit) and a new market (planet) are not enough.
Movements are rising and conscious consumers are demanding transparency, greater integrity and better ethics; but we are facing the giants here. Is it enough to insert a few ‘conscious collections’ into a wholly unsustainable system? Do we politely smile upon big corp. for initiating token actions for climate justice? Can we trust the ‘new initiatives’ of old time polluters? The fashion giants have not given a sideways glance to their environmental footprint for decades, and now adapting to the consumer demand receive a nice pat on the back while the climate continues to burn up.
United Nations Climate Change News states, The fashion industry contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.
The scale of the solution must match the scale of the problem. Our initiatives, our actions and our voice have to be Remarkable. If we are going to tackle the fashion issue we have to target the system itself. The how and why of business operations, the deep core roots of the capitalist model and the way marketing has both created and targeted an unhealthy culture.
‘Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world.’
Fashion was birthed out of class.
From the social hierarchy of the Parisian courts, style evolved from stature. Fashion was a means to identify one's’ wealth and ones worth in the order of things. In the same era, women were sold off with a dowry and dressed up in the latest trends to match the suitors worth. Trends were a byproduct of ego and inadequacy, created to separate the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’.
Fashion moved from the social order of the Royals to the Parisian elites in the 19th century. Charles Frederick Worth is commonly known to have coined fashion from his design studio in Paris, where instead of following the individuals choice he would dictate what they should wear. Ironically, his hub of design became known as The House of Worth; the ‘worth’ being his mark, his brand. Like any artist, there is value in creative work. There is genius in the craft we do. Yet, have we lost the art of individualism? Are we at the will of mass marketing, branding and buying into symbols for ridiculous numbers far beyond their actual value? Whilst the cheap goods are not reflective of their ‘True Cost’. Why do we buy into branding? Why do we sell our trust to the companies, the governments and to the latest trends whose promises are never kept?
Fast fashion is an addiction of continuously investing in a shared identity.
Our tendency to jump into trends and buy into fast fashion shows us we are vulnerable to issues of belonging; they speak directly to our self worth. The rate in which we produce, consume and throw out our clothing is the highest it has ever been. Rather than decreasing, we are still increasing. The producer/consumer relationship is symbiotic, big business produces at the rate they do because consumers consume at the rate they do and the cycle continues. We are creatures of habit, we continue within our comfort zones to make profit in a system that is incredibly damaging.
'Nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry.'
“We’ve had diversity but then it disappeared”.
Revelations of the Rag Trade
Clothing is a way to identify culture and common values. Who we buy from can show us who our tribes are. Traditionally, bohemian styles were worn by the artists and rebels in their rejection of social convention; yet today you will find the masses adorned in the bandanas, hoops and long skirts whilst living deep into the social convention these bohemian tribes rejected. With the need to re-define ourselves with every collection, are we perhaps confused as to our true identities?
The truth is we need clothing we don't need fashion. The very definition of fashion is unsustainable. Keeping up with trends remains an impossible feat based upon socio economic class, whose designs are also often majorly exclusive to a certain slim fit body type which is both unsustainable and exclusive.
How Fashion Works
The traditional fashion system creates seasonal collections with a typical 5-6 collections released per year and 12 garments per collection. That is a staggering 96 items a year created in traditional model, yet fashion has turned the 4 seasons a year model into 11 plus 52 ‘micro seasons’. The standard system of design is seasonal, the newer fast fashion system is constant; in both systems there is always waste.
Whilst this is ridiculously in the red zone of overproduction, designers are also forced to re-invent themselves every 3 months. Content that takes months or years to plan is out of date within weeks of release. No one can keep up with the pace of our 2 minute attention span the consumerist effects have created. It’s a lose, lose. Especially and most importantly for our planet.
We can’t afford to continue, as consumers and creators to work from any existing model. We need to stop marketing to the wants and start responding to the needs. We need to stop buying into the trends and consciously choose only that which will bring sustained value to our lives and that can eventually return to the earth.
Fast fashion is a disease of our psyche and our planet. It is a microbe of a larger issue that feeds mercilessly upon our natural resources, churning out cheap products and burning our climate. At the core of our consumer culture is our sense of disconnection, the loss of our communities, the confusion of our purpose and feeling simply unloved and not enough. Disconnection both results and perpetuates low self worth. Being fashionable always has a time limit and a cost much greater than the price tag. What is fashionable becomes unfashionable, what is unfashionable becomes waste. Personal issues of self esteem become global issues of planetary crisis.
The beauty standard that fashion magazines convey are absorbed into young girls already fragile sense of worth in the changing seasons of their bodies. Paul Hawken climate expert and author of Drawdown, "the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming" (whose book is the source of the new release film 2040) tells us one of the most important solutions to climate change is educating girls.
“The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).”
The belief that fashion sells is that we are not good enough and not beautiful enough and who this message targets above all others is young girls. Fashion it seems, is burning the candle at both ends. We can’t change the system without changing the culture.
Eliminate fashion, re-awaken style.
a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed.
"the pillars are no exception to the general style"
"Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself."
Oscar de la Renta
The greatest creative inspiration of style can come from upcycling. Trends themselves have cycles, most of the styles we wear have already been created.
One of the great solutions we need is to eliminate waste. Both by buying less and innovating new ways to recycle materials and create products that biodegrade. Eliminating excess included refocusing from our incessant wanting to what our basic needs are. It is quite simple really, food, water, shelter, clothing and love. We need clothing to keep warm, to protect ourselves from the elements, to feel safe and at home within ourselves. Clothing has culture and tradition, it is well thought out and takes time to make. Style is a pathway through which creative design does not have to disappear but re-awaken, giving everybody more time for reflection and creation, both in our physical garments and the creation of our unique identities. Underneath the seas of trends, there are millions of unique individuals. Unique style emerges with a trust and discovery of who we each are, having the courage to show up in the world and be seen in our eccentric or soft magnificence. Fashion is unsustainable, it has to fall.
We create clothes, not fashion.