Fast and Cheap Fashion is not Green
Cheap-chic. Bought-and-forgotten. If you’ve fallen for the allure of the “steal” pair of high heels that disintegrated within a month, or the bargain flowery shirt that now lies unused in the closet, you know the familiar buy-and-toss cycle of cheap clothing. What may not be so obvious is the toll on the environment and people cheap fashion is taking.
Grist calls it H-and-Ahem, in an article this week tackling the issue of fast fashion and cheap clothing. The article also featured an interview with Elizabeth Cline, author of the book OverDressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. According to Cline, the secret of the incredible low cost (and more often than not, low quality) clothes today is production at high volumes and cheap labor in developing countries. In this way, clothing companies are able to make a “very small” markup on their products while making mass-produced clothes available at very low prices. Massive imports also contribute to the slew of cheap, “fashionable” clothes-of-the-month that flood markets. Clothing continues to rank among the top consumer sectors along with food. Regrettably, this also translates to more waste.
Alternet discusses the environmental expense the clothing industry costs the planet even before its bought-and-tossed products end up in landfills. Fiber production, manufacturing, and dyeing require resources such as petroleum, wood pulp, and water while emitting greenhouse gases and releasing wastewater/pollutants.
Fast fashion does little justice to resources consumed as it encourages repetitive transition from one trend to another in short periods of time. And because clothes are so cheap, not many find it difficult to simply toss their ‘phased out’ clothes for a new set, especially if there’s no more storage space to stash ‘old’ clothes in.
Cline recommends a switch to buying clothes from local, independent designers using sustainable fabrics and supporting fair trade. She mentioned FashioningChange as a website that promotes eco-and-ethical alternatives to well-known brands. The site features a page called Wear This, Not That, where it compares prices and sustainability practices. For example, a Reuse Jeans product is listed with “80% recycled denim, low-impact eco-friendly dyes, etc.” while a similar product from Urban Outfitters is listed with “forced child labor, no commitment to ethical manufacturing, etc.,” with each description offering additional information.
Cline also recommends taking care of what we already own and fixing clothes whenever possible. This time-honored tradition and common sense is sadly the very one discouraged by the fast and cheap fashion prevalent today. However, it remains a challenge anyone with a little discipline and patience can overcome. Some articles on DIY clothes repair/upstyle for a start:
- How to Sew a Button
- How to Mend a Ripped Seam
- DIY Printed Trim Mini Skirt from Apair-andASpare
- DIY Stitched Hat from Honestlywtf
- Blinged-out Blue Jeans from RunwayDIY
iVillage lists more DIY fashion projects in 15 Style Ideas from Our Fave Bloggers.
By refusing to succumb to the allure of cheap fashion good money is saved, sustainable livelihood supported, and the environment spared from the expensive cost of fast, cheap fashion: now, there’s a steal deal!
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