A man-made world: redressing the impact of fashion

February 15, 2022

Collage with photograph by Cottonbro at Pexels

Abi Greene examines how changing your wardrobe habits can help save the planet

The economy is a man-made structure. Its rules, regulations and functioning are all determined by consumers, producers and the government. So why, according to the McKinsey & Company report, does 97% of the fashion industry’s profits belong to only 20 companies?

Surely, if we have the ability to change this we would! However, the inequalities only seem to increase. With the raging exploitation of the vulnerable and violation of our environment we seem to be heading in completely the wrong direction. Why are we not able to head towards a new, improved and sustainable world?

We aren’t because in order for that to happen we need systematic change. We need a shift in direction to come from the top 20 profiteering fashion companies. We need them to move away from their thrones of hierarchy, fuelled by high profits and a lack of regulation.

In order for success we, as the demanding consumers, must spark change. We must advocate for our planet instead of succumbing to our insatiable and unnecessary desires.

Wearing outfits we have hand picked can help express our creativity and form part of our identity

The clothing industry is responsible for 10% of global emissions. With a 100 billion garments produced annually, and clothing kept for half as long as it was 15 years ago, the industry’s detrimental effects on the planet are skyrocketing.

Edge, fashion intelligence, reports that to create a single T-shirt or pair of jeans requires approximately 5,000 gallons of water. In addition to its role as a violent creator of global warming, the fashion industry exploits millions of people. Fewer than 2% of its workers earn the living wage. We only have ourselves to blame for these outcomes.

According to an article in contactmusic.com many of the items we consume are only worn seven to ten times before being thrown out. We’re actively demanding goods that we already have an excess amount of.

Emma Watson has suggested a rule, “if you won’t wear it 30 times, don’t buy it”. While this is sound and logical advice, we as a nation are evidently not acting on it.

Selecting, assembling and wearing outfits we have hand-picked can help express our creativity and form part of our identity. The key is not to strip away our fashion tastes and styles. We can still express ourselves but in more sustainable ways.

Stop buying endless amounts of clothes. Source your wardrobe from thrifted, second-hand stores. If pre-worn clothes are too much of a jump, there’s no excuse to not reduce your fashion footprint.

Choose from the many other options available. Pangaia, Patagonia, TOMS, and RubyMoon are great environmentally friendly lines, which will enable you to stop giving power to the biggest, most exploitative companies.

One of the biggest advantages of thrifting, for the planet, is that it keeps clothes out of landfills

Even if you’re someone who likes to regularly transform your style, participating in clothing swaps is an option. You can donate your clothes to charities or second-hand organisations and then pick out your next rotation from these same locations to restock your wardrobe.

If anything, this is a more exciting and creative way to create a bespoke style. Second-hand clothing is accumulated from around the country, the world and even more exclusively from different eras. You will always be original, probably the only person with the pieces you have sourced.

This burst of authenticity and exploration make it so appealing that I wonder why we haven’t already switched towards this sustainable lifestyle. Being more affordable it’s popularity is increasing on the high street and online. With increased interest and involvement, this journey can only flourish further.

One of the biggest advantages of thrifting, for the planet, is that it keeps clothes out of landfills. Involve yourself in this movement now to see a better future, not only for our planet but for the exploited workforce – and your wardrobe too!

Abi studies English literature, Economics and Sociology at Woodhouse College. She’s passionate about fashion, sports and literature finding it fascinating how powerful an outfit, action or book can be through its ability to be explored and interpreted in many different ways.

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