It actually mentions the waste generated from the production process, which i was surprised to see.
“As well as using up resources, the production process itself adds to the world’s landfills by generating waste by-products. As a nation we buy 460 million new T-shirts a year. Every one that we chuck on the tip will join the almost half a kilo of waste that it took to create it.”
And this quote from Dr Julian Allwood, a lecturer at the Institute of Manufacturing and co-ordinator of the Institute’s Sustainable Manufacturing Group
“If we spent exactly double the amount of money on each garment and bought exactly half as many garments, nobody would be impoverished by that.”
This is such a simple idea but one that so many people struggle with. I don’t understand the appeal of cheap nasty throw away clothes – most people could probably do very well with even 1/3 of the clothes they own.
A post-grad student of mine Charlotte Little for her final year project wore the same dress every day for 209 days – similar to The Brown Dress project and others, she then designed her end of year collection from this experience to be a group of garments that could fit her life and style perfectly, garments she would wear and keep until they fell apart, and then because they were made of organic fibres and dyed using beetroot and turmeric etc, she could compost them. She said it changed her perception of needs and wants. Beyond the clothes you need to keep you warm and culturally appropriate, what do you really need? Hmm.
The Constant Question rears it’s annoying head – Why make anything at all if it is just contributing more stuff we don’t need to an environment that doesn’t need it? arrgh.
A good friend spoke to me recently of this amazing old man on the bus she saw. He was apparently wearing a standard pair of blue jeans – which had been darned from below the knee up to mid thigh – over and over again. I’m talking 4 inches wide all the way up. Hazel had her new digital SLR on her so asked if she could take a photo. He didn’t want her to which she thought was fair enough but wrote
“I was gutted though – would have been an ID-type shot. Bugger.”
She said the jeans looked twisted and amazing. The old guy told her that you don’t learn as much from a photo as from a conversation and then proceeded to recount how he grew up in wartimes and that he had learnt two very important things in his life – never be ashamed of carefully mended clothing – and she couldn’t remember the other one. She observed to me that
“People don’t mend clothing much anymore; they discard and buy new ones.”
The interesting thing is that even this old guy on the bus with his authentically repaired jeans is considered an aesthetic for consumption and is apparently fully aware of this – it seems that everything is for sale.
I love fashion! It is beautiful, frightening, exhilarating, confronting, elegant, communicative, intelligent, frivolous and thought provoking. However I also know that fashion is the cause of massive environmental and social injustices. When the concept of “sustainable fashion” was first touted, it was considered an oxymoron – and to me it still is. As how can an industry be considered sustainable when its primary concern is the propagation of the Next New Thing at the expense of perfectly functional existing products? Despite consumer desire for change – as shown in the worldwide awareness of sustainability and growing demand for sustainable products – the majority of the fashion industry are responding with what can be considered ‘Less Bad’ solutions – and less bad just isn’t good enough. ‘Less bad’ in the fashion world has predominantly meant using organic and recycled fibre within the current inherently wasteful clothing production and consumption model. At either extremes of the fashion system waste occurs with shocking familiarity. It is standard for garment producers to expect to waste approximately 15% of the cloth needed to produce an adult sized garment, resulting in a loss of profits for the manufacturer and landfill waste. It is also not unusual for a garment to have travelled vast distances to get from cotton field to consumer. The globalisation of the fashion industry has in some cases lead to the raw material of textiles being grown in New Zealand, woven into fabric in Italy, designed in America and manufactured in China – generating vast quantities of carbon dioxide while divorcing the consumer from the production of the clothes they wear every day. At the consumer end of the fashion industry the rapid and insatiable desire for new fashion products that drives the fashion cycle and contributes 30kg of textile waste per person in the UK every year is growing so swiftly so as to be granted the term ‘Fast Fashion’, where new styles take mere weeks from design to consumer and “affluenza” drives consumers to buy everything, now! – I wonder if we are we in the midst of a rampant clothing ‘epidemic’.
For me the conflict is triadic – I am sitting on the very pointy apex of a three sided pyramid made up of sustainable designer, educator and fashion lover, and it is getting very difficult to keep my balance. The primary contributor to my unease is the knowledge of what I should be doing and its conflict with what I am doing and encouraging. Leon Festinger – a psychologist from the ’50s – described this emotional state as Cognitive Dissonance and argued that when personal beliefs and actions do not align, one or the other will change so as to remove the source of discomfort, usually by justifying the actions rather than changing the behaviour. I have been doing a little of both and it is through this precarious balancing act I have discovered a new ease with unease – I realised that uncertainty can be a great innovator and that as long as you have a destination in mind, you don’t really need to know how you are going to get there.