If you’re reading this post, you must be related to fashion one way or another. Meaning, you are a part of it and should be interested in the state of fashion. I want you to answer one question for yourself before you start: what is fashion for you?
A means of self-expression
Depending on the answer, you take a role in this industry and the way you fulfil this role directly affects the world you live in.
First things first, let’s define some terms we are going to use here.
Environmental footprint – the impact of the industry on the environment. This is NOT some Greenpeace hippie bullshit as many of you will think/say. Greenpeace is not a hippie, environmental issues are real life, it is not some other country government’s or organisation’s responsibility. It is our responsibility. Don’t litter, save energy, recycle (including clothes), stop the vicious circle of consumerism (buy less of the things you don’t need).
Sustainability – living your life, leading your business or making any choices in a way that makes least unnecessary harm and waste of resources (human, energy, material goods).
Fast fashion aka disposable fashion– an opposite of the sustainable fashion. Manufactured and consumed faster, with a bigger environmental footprint. Most of the high-street fashion brands are considered fast fashion as they produce new items every week/day, produce more than needed, encourages consumerism, opens new stores every month, dispose of the excess products (becoming a huge pollutant), often manufactures in hazardous, toxic conditions.
Fair Trade – Fair working conditions. Fair trade is a huge problem in the apparel and garment industry worldwide. From lethal toxic working conditions in the cotton fields to cheap and child labour in the factories that make the clothes we wear.
Fast Fashion is Disposable
I went to Zara store in my native Kaunas, Lithuania, a few weeks ago after a year or so of a no-go. I was surprised and overwhelmed by choice. High-street prices combined with winter sales and beautiful knock-off designs reminded me of two things: a) It is almost impossible to resist buying – so many cheap and nice pieces, really good design; b) The prices go so low that you (should) immediately think – why does this embellished denim jacket cost less than a fancy sandwich in Manhattan?
One thing is clear – beautiful, fast fashion is affordable, and it doesn’t take anything to dress fashionable. You don’t need money, you don’t need imagination, you don’t need time. Fast fashion is a disposable good – it can’t be valued – it is extremely difficult to value something that doesn’t require any efforts to achieve/purchase. Wear it, dump it.
The fact that fashion is so cheap makes us into irresponsible consumers. Once a luxury now a waste – that’s what fashion has become. I do believe that sustainable production, fair wages and better working conditions should increase the prices in the apparel industry and decrease the production cycle. The term fast-fashion shouldn’t exist.
We must stop buying things we don’t need
The problem of clothing industry being the second largest pollutant in the world (after Oil industry) is huge. It does consist of many factors: the environmental footprint in the sourcing, manufacturing and logistics, but one of the most important factors – our behaviour as consumers and producers. We must stop buying things we don’t need. We shouldn’t make new collections if we don’t have to offer anything new or valuable. As a designer, think like Vetements– the Paris-based fashion brand by Demna Gvasalia always produce less than there’s demand, their collections are always in demand and sold-out. As a producer, think like the American activewear brand Patagonia – build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm.
Yes, brands like Patagonia or garments by independent designers cost more than fast fashion (Zara, Mango, H&M, Primark, Forever 21, etc.). But after you buy something from an Independent designer brand (knowing exactly who designed your coat and where it was made), you will value that item and your purchasing decision will be well thought. Do I need this? Can I afford it? How often and how long will I wear it? What is the composition of the item? Is it limited edition? You will care.
I almost stopped buying fast fashion (unless its fair trade and sweatshop-free guarantee, such as American Apparel). It pretty much means I stopped buying. How often do I shop fashion (including the basics)? Once a month. After committing to try and support independent fashion designers from emerging Europe vs. fast-fashion giants, I pay more and spend less. My wardrobe has become so much lighter, all the clothes I don’t wear anymore I either donate or recycle. To be honest, there’s not much to recycle anymore – I wear everything I own. Should you stop buying fast fashion? Ideally, yes. In real life, you should stop consuming fashion. Whatever you choose to buy, make it a choice, not a ‘because it’s cheap’ consumption. The state of fashion depends on you.
I will speak more about my choices and fashion decisions in the second part of the State of Fashion where I will explain why fair trade is a cause I care so much about.