A few months ago Giorgio Armani wrote an open letter to one of the most relevant fashion newspapers, WWD Women’s Wear Daily, to point out that he finds immoral and unethical the way luxury (but unfortunately not only that) fashion industry has turned to: fast fashion. In this letter he lists some of the problems that this way of producing and selling clothes brings:
- clothes become obsolete in a few weeks, most of the time in less than one season. If before 2000 the scope of an Armani tailleur was to last over time, nowadays the same tailleur lasts only three weeks in a shop, on the fourth week it’s already obsolete.
- there are too many fashion shows where no new ideas are actually presented
- fashion shows have become extremely expensive, vulgar and often inappropriate
- fashion shows are organized all over the world and this leads to many unnecessary trips which contribute to the environment pollution
The concept of fast fashion was born in the early 2000’s in America (but it conquered European consumers in the same years) where low cost fashion retailers like Zara, H&M, Primark (and many others too) started to produce 52 mini seasons per year. This strategy became very popular as people, seeing new clothes in the shops almost every week, were encouraged to spend more and more money with the trick of “it’s really cheap, it costs only 5 euros”. This way of producing and selling clothes affected also the luxury segment of the industry as most of the famous brands started to follow the lead of low cost ones.
After 20 years we can say that fast fashion, a part from the high profit of fashion retailers (especially the low cost ones), does not bring any advantage, as producing 52 mini seasons per year means:
- buying items more often despite the fact that they will be wearable for less than one year, next year or even after 6 months they wont be “fashionable” anymore and they will be forgotten in the closet or thrown away. This means spending and wasting more money than before even though “it costs only 5 euros…” in fact, between 2000 and 2014, +60% pieces of garment have been purchased compared to the previous decades.
- producing an incredible amount of waste. Just in the USA, 15 million tons of textile are wasted each year (95% of which could be reused or recycled)
- polluting the planet. Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world and nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry
- contributing to increase and maintain cheap market labor in countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, India etc. In order to set a 5 euros price for a t-shirt in the store, for example, fashion brands outsource the production in Asia where cheap labor, poor work condition and lack of human rights are a cruel reality
Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace and other luxury fashion designers see the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity, they would like to reset everything to what it was before 2000: fewer, smaller and more season-less collections. This will slowly help to decrease waste, pollution and giving them the time to think of new ideas, design pieces which are really different from the previous collections. This will lead to less frequent and probably less expensive fashion shows around the globe.
What about consumers? What do they think? People started to consider that fast fashion is not at all ethic since the Rana Plaza factory, in Bangladesh, collapsed in 2013 due to a structural failure. In that factory 5000 people who were sewing clothes for the west fashion market died (This incident as well as what’s the real cost of fast fashion is very well described in the documentary The True Cost). It was like turning on a light bulb, people started to talk about possible solutions and where to find information that can help them purchase products from ethical brands. Luckily lots of websites have been created so far, where it’s possible to search for a product and discover how ethic it is, here’s few examples:
- GoodGuide. An ethical guide on personal care, household and babies/kids products
- Good On You. Source of trusted brand ratings, articles and expertise on ethical and sustainable fashion
- Ethical shopping Guide. An ethical guide on energy, kitchen and appliances, fashion, supermarkets, pet food. food and drinks, coffee shops, health and beauty, money
In conclusion, there are few simple actions that we can consider as consumers if we want to be part of this “fashion revolution”:
- Recycle your clothes. Some retailers have donation boxes inside the stores where you can bring unwanted (not ruined!) clothes and recycle them for up to 15% off your next purchase
- If you cannot wear anymore some of the clothes you used to wear for work consider to re-use them as “around the house items”.
- Buy better quality products that will last longer and not one season – item. This will also help saving a lot of money.
- Buy recycled, second hand clothes. If you don’t like what your second hand store sells in your city try to find something online (i.e. thredUP)
Enjoy your ethical and sustainable shopping! 🙂