That new T-Shirt you bought looks good – but it won’t be so good-looking when sitting in a landfill after you throw it out in a year. You might feel guilty but it’s not really your fault. The whole fashion industry is set up to lure you into a cycle of buying clothes, falling out of style, throwing your clothes out, then buying more—rinse and repeat. This overconsumption comes from the fact clothing has become so cheap, fleeting and ultimately disposable. It’s looking like time to guide the fashion business model towards a more sustainable approach.
Low prices / high profits
High street fashion is cheaper and trendier than ever. Global high-street brands fulfil consumers’ fashion demands for peanuts, while ‘fast fashion’ companies – businesses that move styles rapidly from the catwalk to sales racks – end up raking in the profits. But the question remains: can such a powerful business model become more sustainable?
Seasonal collections are changing rapidly
Back in the day, there were two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. But now in 2019, the fast fashion industry is churning out a whopping 52 ‘micro-seasons’ a year. With new trends coming out every week, fast fashion incentivises consumers to buy as many clothes as possible to avoid the dreaded possibility of looking un-chic. For some high-street brands, it takes just 3 weeks for clothes worn on runways to be sold in stores, while inventories change on a weekly basis.
The dizzying rotation of new looks and styles is deliberate, to make you feel off-trend and get you out buying more low-quality clothing in high quantities. As a result, production companies – usually located in developing countries – have to work longer, faster, and harder for less money, to keep up with the West’s erratic tastes.
Profit vs. sustainability
The only way to make a profit with incredibly low prices is with massive volume. And to create demand, companies have conditioned customers to want more clothes that look good on the racks but fall apart soon after purchase.
Fast-fashion giants are concerned with the bottom line and the bottom line alone – even if that means producing tonnes upon tonnes of cheap but superficially-pleasing clothing that will probably be thrown out once it’s “so last micro-season.”
Why should we care?
The average Western European throws away over 25kg of clothes per year. Here, we’re not talking about donating to charity shops or selling second hand on eBay or Wallapop. That’s 25kgs to the trash. Most of this cheap clothing is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibres that won’t decompose for decades.
In the UK a typical piece of clothing is used an average of only 7 times before getting thrown out. While back in the day your grandmother would patch up the same old pair of socks for two decades, now we chuck anything out with a hole or tear.
Time to change the approach to fashion consumption
It’s probably time to start questioning this business model – and start thinking about not just where our clothes end up but why we feel the need to be so wasteful? And just who is paying the real price for this incredibly cheap, low quality clothing? If every item is just worn 7 times, it’s not hard to imagine the tonnes of waste that fast fashion brands produce each year.
All this wasted non-renewable, non-biodegradable, material isn’t the problem of the big fashion magnates pumping it out of factories now but it will be for the next generation. Not to mention all the 5€ T-Shirts that need to be shipped halfway around the world. And after all the costs are tallied, there isn’t much left for the factory worker at the bottom of the supply chain.
Someone pays the price
“Made in China”, “Made in Cambodia”, “Made in Bangladesh.” Most of us know the implications of these tags but, although we might stop and think for a moment, we overlook them. Many of us are willing to give up meat and dairy but don’t think twice about the ethics of wearing clothes made by third-world workers.
Likewise, we may see YouTube videos of child-labour and appalling conditions in textile factories but then don’t change our spending habits.
This inaction stems from the fact that our relationship to our clothes has changed. Clothes used to be a commodity—like a table, laptop or lamp. Nowadays, textiles have turned into a consumption good like food or chewing gum. Instead of clothing becoming a fixture in our lives, we chew them up and throw them away.
Fast fashion is at the heart of this; fast cheap clothes produced to meet the latest trends and bought in huge quantities. This debasing of clothes to consumables ultimately harms overseas workers and, of course, the environment.
Buy less. Buy better.
SANVT aims to be part of the movement reversing this trend. We want people to take a long-term, mindful, approach to clothing again.
BUY LESS, BUY BETTER. At SANVT we feel that less is more and, when considering the current model, more is less. Here are a few of the reasons our approach is more sustainable:
- All products are well made and meant to last using the best possible 100% natural materials.
- We work together with small specialised factories in the EU.
- When selecting sourcing partners SANVT make sure that working conditions are great (EU standards) and fair wages are paid.
- Transparency is key, you can virtually visit all of SANVT’s factories by taking a virtual tour and honour all the craftswomen and men that put their dedication into making extraordinary well-made products.