We are all too familiar with the existence and impact of the fast fashion industry (reflected in the prolific production and purchase of low quality clothes which need to be replaced more quickly to meet consumer demand). This industry managed to entice us to embrace the so called ‘disposable clothing’ culture where the price of these garments never truly reflected their true cost as it ignored both the workers who make them and the carbon footprint resulting from more production, more transportation and more landfill.
This article in theconversation.com presents the scenario that we just might be moving towards changing our patterns of consumption in this area.
Rays of hope
At the turn of the year, there was a feeling that sustainability might be moving back up the agenda. A surge of consumer protests, led by Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, seemed to herald a public desire for change. To raise awareness that fashion is the second-worst polluter after oil, Extinction Rebellion held a funeral during London Fashion Week 2019.
It seemed possible that consumers might be galvanised to shop more sustainably – especially given the extreme weather conditions of 2019, and fears that there are just ten years left to halt the irreversible consequences of climate change.
Then came the pandemic. With many high street shops forced to suspend trading, the whole industry has been in flux. Brands like Primark and Matalan have cancelled or suspended orders in places like Bangladesh, causing some factories to close. There may have been big environmental benefits from the world at a standstill, but it will be little consolation to garment workers who are furloughed or jobless.
Yet amidst all this upheaval, there is an opportunity for the fashion industry – both to help these workers and more broadly to put sustainability at the heart of their business.
You can read the full article HERE It concludes by recommending:
“that the fashion industry should take advantage of the pandemic pause and the current mood to show constructive leadership to the global economy. It should use its power to help change our relationship with clothing into something more equal and sustainable for the long term”.
Even before the pandemic, the UK fashion retail industry was struggling. John Lewis, M&S and Debenhams had all announced losses, job cuts and store closures, while House of Fraser was taken over. Since lockdown, Oasis and Warehouse have entered administration, and John Lewis has said that not all its stores will reopen.
One of the challenges for these retailers is cut throat price competition from international rivals like Primark and H&M, and online retailers like Pretty Little Thing and Misguided. Low-price garments became all the more attractive to consumers after their spending power was weakened by the financial crisis of 2007-09.
There is a price to be paid for all our actions. This needs to be considered in the light of creating and contributing to a more ‘just’ society that recognises sustainability as vital to the survival of all of us.