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“We buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe”

House of Commons, 2019
Excess consumption
Pinterest

Once that statistic has sunk in… dive into the next section to unravel how the emergency of the fast fashion paradigm has significantly expanded the global fashion industry and has transformed the social and cultural meaning of clothing for consumers.

A prominent social change that has occurred in society is the shift towards a consumer based society, where consumption is increasingly being recognised as a main source of social identity. Although previously, fashion was used for solely functional purposes and value, it is now recognised as a concept, which allows us to express our creativity and symbolise our personality and morals through items of clothing or accessories.

However, this desire for individualisation has been heightened by the fast fashion industry, which is defined by the production of cheap, trendy and affordable fashion, and as a result has led to unsustainable consumer practices such as excess consumption and the encouragement of a throwaway culture.

The fast fashion business model has evolved since the 1980s, and is based on the linear economy. This consumer demand towards a linear economy and wanting to get their hands on new and upcoming trends is reflected on increased rapid production, where manufacturing industries are prioritising economic gain and producing fashion at an alarming rate. These processes are continually causing detrimental social and environmental implications.

Here are three prominent factors that prove just how damaging the fast fashion industry is on our planet:

  • SINGLE USE – every summer in the UK, 50 million garments are bought and worn a single time
  • GREENHOUSE GASES – the fashion industry releases between 4-10% of greenhouse gases annually
  • MASS PRODUCTION – each year, 100 billion garments are being produced on a mass scale for the fashion industry

The total footprint of clothing in use in the UK, including global and territorial emissions, was 26.2 million tonnes CO2e in 2016, up from 24 million tonnes in 2012

WRAP, 2017

The fast fashion industry poses serious threats on our environment and livelihoods, as it is built on a system which values profit over people and planet. We are reaching a point where it is crucial to introduce alternative fashion paradigms into society and shift consumer demand accordingly, as this current model is not future proof. Through research, it appears that this mindset and realisation is growing amongst consumers:

Second Hand expected to be 2X bigger than Fast Fashion by 2030

ThredUp

A deeper understanding and awareness of the impact of unethical fashion consumption practices, has extended the responsibility on to consumers rather than just production. It is time consumers engage and comprehend that their fashion footprint contributes to wider environmental issues of climate change.

It is common that fashion consumers disregard or do not consider the macro effects of their personal purchasing habits, as how much of an impact can one person’s consumption behaviours be right…? This mindset allows consumers to rid themselves of the guilt attached to fast fashion excess purchasing. However, by ignoring the signs of the reality of this industry, it deters you from making conscious and informed decisions in your everyday consumption.

It is increasingly being recognised that consumers play a fundamental role in determining the rise of sustainable fashion. Consumer demand is powerful in today’s society, and therefore could play a huge role in helping revolutionise the fashion industry into a more circular economy and drive social change. However, as sustainable fashion carries specific negative connotations to it, this may deter consumers from switching their demand, as they would not see any personal benefit to this type of purchasing.

As well as sustainable fashion being interpreted as a pricey, inaccessible luxurious good that is not inclusive to all, it is also used as a marketing ploy for fast fashion brands that participate in greenwashing. This causes confusion for consumers on what sustainability actually is, and if they can trust what these big brands are promoting. This is reflected statistically, where it was found that while demand for second hand clothing is surging, demand for new clothing marketed as “sustainable” has declined 8 spots amongst the other categories which consumers spend on. It is crucial we educate ourselves on what criteria fits under a sustainable garment, so we can continue making sustainable choices without fear of being a victim of greenwashing.

Second hand is a growing category in the consumer world and is the future of fashion. We are proud to be part of this movement as an Online Charity Marketplace and paving the way for the digitalisation of Second Hand Fashion. Buying second hand clothing removes the elements of environmental deterioration that are involved in the manufacturing of clothing, such as carbon emissions, energy demand and water usage.

If you have finished reading and wondering “what can I do as a consumer to make a positive difference?”, have a look at the options discussed below, and if anymore spring to mind pop them down in the comments below!

  • Reuse your old clothes, don’t throw them
  • Donate any old items that are still in good condition
  • Buy only what you need – “ITS ONLY A BARGAIN IF YOU LOVE IT!”
  • Buy quality pieces -which you love. The goal is to open up your wardrobe and be obsessed with every clothing item you own
  • Repair clothing, give that garment a second chance !

We hope that by introducing RELUV and enabling a more accessible way to buy second hand clothing on an online platform, it will help contribute to the shift of demand and growth of second hand fashion, which in turn will alleviate the environmental strain the industry has on our planet.

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