How many times will you wear an item of clothing? And after buying it, how long before it is sent to the charity shop or put in the bin? Now try to be honest!
I ask because I am struggling to digest statistics from writer and researcher Frances Leach that the average garment is worn just five times and will be in the bin a mere 35 days after purchase.
Now that is what I call fast fashion, and it is destroying our planet and destroying people in the process.
In Britain, £235m of clothing goes to landfill each year, yet 99 per cent of it could be recycled. Moreover, wearing an item a scant five times is creating 400 per cent more carbon emissions than one worn 50 times. And as for water… Did you know it takes 2,700 litres to make just one T-shirt? Tell that to children who have to walk miles to collect dirty water for their families to drink or cook with.
So, what is driving this insatiable hunger for clothes? Social media is the scapegoat for a lot of things these days but I do think it has a big part to play in disposable fashion. Who wants to be tagged wearing the same thing again? Wedding photos are up in a nanosecond so that dress you were hoping would do for a couple more high-profile events just doesn’t cut the mustard. Right?
Wrong! Who says it won’t do? We need a paradigm shift here, be proud of our lived-in looks and wear our sustainable hearts on our sleeves, literally. Let’s make conscious clothing a badge of honour and not just acceptable but a desirable fashion look. Those ripped jeans could be real ripped jeans for once.
The Duchess of Cambridge has fabulous clothes at her fingertips, yet she is not averse to some re-purposing every now and then. So, if she can, we can.
And if we all just spent a little more on our clothes, they could be sustainably and ethically produced, waving goodbye to the sweatshops and vile working conditions that underpin so much of the fashion industry and that have resulted in tragedies such as Rana Plaza.
But fast fashion isn’t always cheap fashion. Asked to define the term, Frances said fast fashion did not follow the requirements of the seasons, with lines constantly updated for no particular purpose other than to sell more. Therefore, some designer brands fall into that category too. She singled out one high-end label that would rather cut up its leftover designer handbags than sell them at a discount price. Which begs the question: should we buy from these designer vandals with our hard-earned cash?
I am trying hard to resist the drug that is consumerism, the temptation to buy things, including clothes, that I don’t need. And with Lent starting this week, it is a great way of putting my convictions to the test and trying to establish, if not wear, a new habit.