Has fashion become a mere concept of change, where being ‘trendy’ is the need for constant evolution and to do so speedily? In this blog, I aim to analyse the implication of increased capital on the fashion consumer culture and how consumer behaviour has altered the way they view the fashion market.
The following video published by the Economist demonstrates the unprecedented speed at which the western world consumes today, where 1kg of fabric produces 23kg of greenhouse gases (5) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A08egKEQ5-c
Reckless consumption of natural resources and immense waste are direct results of fast fashion. The term ‘fast fashion’ refers to ‘low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends’ (1). As someone who has loved fashion and is constantly experimenting with different materials, I was interested in the role of/ lack of sustainability within the fashion world.
Since 1970, the World’s GDP has increased by (US$) 614% (2). Therefore, as the value of money has decreased, the average consumer has more disposable income. This has significantly changed the consumer purchase behaviours within the fashion industry. We live in a world where excessive consumption is a reflection our wealth and status. Our motivations may derive from our desire to climb the social ladder, our materialistic mindset or to fit into our social circles, we live in an unsustainable consumption culture. This has an immense detrimental impact on the environment, making textiles market the second biggest polluter of our world (3)
Critiques have argued that the fashion industry has become increasingly saturated therefore brands have turned to the idea of newness (3). In order to maintain and increase sales, marketers have tempted potential consumers to buy more by advertising consumers current clothes are old and out of fashion. We all must buy more to stay relevant, using novelty as a catalyst in consumer consumption practices.
To quantify the damage, research shows 800,000 tonnes of process waste produced from the UK clothing demand (4). To put this into perspective, an average lorry weighs 44 tonnes. This means over 18,000 lorries would be required to dispose of the textile waste we produce, just in the UK. This disconnect between consumers impulsive and excessive consumption practices and the consequent waste produce is where it is all going wrong. When purchasing, due to the effective advertising and marketing exposure, us as consumers are forced to think of only the present. Seeing a new coat on the hangers, to stand there thinking this is what I ‘need’, when you may have 10 other coats lined up in your wardrobe. Through our impulsive behaviour, we have increased demand. We have increased demand for not only new and newer products but also the demand for natural resources, energy, outsourcing of labour and for more landfills. This demand which cannot be met by our planet, not at the rate we want. Whilst researching, it shocked me how all aspects of the planetary boundaries are pushed and challenged beyond capacity. These factors include biodiversity as land is cleared to grow cotton for example, or freshwater use to process materials and many more.
So, does this mean all consumption is bad? Well it could be argued that the answer depends on the intention of consumption. Are we aware of the origins of our products, the miles they have travelled, who it was made by and if the workers were paid fairly? Also, what is going to happen at the end of product use? How long would we use it for? Most importantly is it a necessity or a mere desire? The next time you are shopping, for yourself or others, ask yourself these questions and challenge your own consumer behaviour. I believe not all consumption is bad, but we should be able to control the rate at which we consume and what types of products we buy, by analysing the materials, energy and labour that is behind them.
- Joy, A., Sherry, J., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J. and Chan, R. (2012). Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands. Fashion Theory, 16(3), pp.273-295.
- World Bank national accounts data and OECD National Accounts data files (2017). GDP (constant 2010 US$) | Data. [online] Data.worldbank.org. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD
- Perry, P. (2018). The environmental costs of fast fashion. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html
- Martin, C. and Murphy, S. (2018). Sustainable Textiles | WRAP UK. [online] Wrap.org.uk. Available at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/sustainable-textiles
- The Economist on YouTube (2018). Fashion’s naked truths | The Economist. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A08egKEQ5-c