Since I saw the documentary “The True Cost“, I no longer see the fashion industry as I used to. I find it difficult to visit shopping malls filled with major chain stores like H & M and Zara. I wanted to talk about this industry to show you what is really happening behind the scenes.
It is important to note that one of the major problems of the fashion industry is the overconsumption due to constant change in trends. As a society, we consume 400% more clothing today than 20 years ago (Forbes), which corresponds to about 80 billion clothes sold each year (Fashion Revolution). This phenomenon is called “fast fashion”, which means that fashion trends seen on the runway are found very quickly in stores, often at a low cost and poor quality and encourage people to always buy new clothes.
However, people do not need that many clothes. According to Clare Press, author of the book “Wardrobe Crisis”, an individual wears a garment an average of 7 times before getting rid of it. The average woman wears only 40% of the clothes she has in her wardrobe (ABC). Then, what happens to these clothes? Depending on their condition, they might be thrown away or given away. Giving clothes to a charity store is a good idea in theory, but, only 10% of donated clothes are actually sold. The rest is found in landfills, are incinerated or sold in countries already flooded with our waste. (Fashion Revolution)
Another major problem of this industry is the human condition. When you buy a $12 shirt, it’s because someone on the other side of the world has been paid 5 cents for it. Indeed, as explained in the documentary “The True Cost“, citizens of countries such as Bangladesh, India or Cambodia often have no choice but to work in this industry and are subject to deplorable conditions. You may recall the tragic event of April 24, 2013, when 1,138 people died and more than 2,500 were injured by the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. (Fashion Revolution) Accidents often occur in these types of buildings because they are not safe for workers.
Finally, the products and materials used in manufacturing are often unsafe and highly pollutant for the planet, especially dyeing, genetically modified cotton production and leather. This explains why the fashion industry is the second most polluting in the world, just after the oil industry. (The True Cost)
It is therefore possible to say that this industry has many major problems. Yet we don’t often hear about it, and continue to promote overconsumption of clothing. The trend of “hauls” on Youtube, where influencers share their wardrobes of 300 clothes, often sponsored by companies, is still present and popular. With that being said, it is possible not to contribute to this phenomenon and you will discover a lot of ways to do so in the next blog post of this series!
Challenge of the week: the next time you see a garment of very good quality, made ethically, locally, at $60, don’t say it is too expensive!