Fashion dates back to when people first started wrapping, draping or tying leaves, grass or animal skins around their bodies. Fast forward to the early 1800s and the world’s first fashion designer, Charles Worth, emerged in Paris. Another century later and fashion magazines began to use photographs with models wearing designer items. After World War Two a booming new generation with buying power brought about huge demand for ready-to-wear, off the peg garments.
Nowadays, we have social media influencers, celebrities, fashion capital runways, billboards and fashion bloggers all around us. Just fingering through the labels in most wardrobes shows us that huge percentages of today’s clothing is produced in China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnâm. Low labour costs, vast workforces and hi-tech machinery allowing mass production have been enablers in the making of what we call ‘fast fashion’.
We are constantly surrounded by marketing encouraging us to buy the trend of ‘this season’. Today’s top fashion accessory is tomorrow’s unwanted castaway. Much of this fast fashion is sold at extremely low prices – only achievable by using modern slave labour in sweatshops and hard to recycle, synthetic materials. Pesticides are used to help industrial cotton growth to feed our demand for ever more clothes.
Many companies use a technique called ‘planned obsolescence’, a policy of deliberately creating an artificially limited lifespan or frail design so that the consumer has to go out and spend more money on a replacement. ‘Green washing’ is also increasingly prominent. This is where companies make unsubstantiated claims and create misleading impressions to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are more environmentally sound that they actually are. This can mislead consumers into acting unsustainably while at the same time thinking that they are making a positive, eco-friendly purchase.
So where does this leave us? What is the future of fashion? Luckily we have innovation on our side. Think sustainable, 3-D printed clothing using truly eco-friendly inks. Think micro-algae, which is being tapped as a new, sustainable resource to make fibres and dyes for the textile industry (check out Checkerspot and Beyond Surface Technologies). Think lab-grown leather… millions of handbags made from a single, harmless biopsy from one single cow; allowing Daisy to remain grazing in the field and every Tom, Dick and Harry to have as many man bags as their hearts desire (check out Vitrolabs Inc).
And what about garms that already exist? Fall in love with vintage clothing. Get crafty by repurposing old clothing… Make a tote bag out of an old shirt or a draft excluder out of those old jeans which you can’t quite squeeze into anymore.
Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Just because you no longer love an item, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t. These days charity shops such as Montagne Verte don’t just take (often nearly new) items to stock their own rails, they also filter them out to other organisations too. They support initiatives such as Monsieur Cravate, which helps provide clothing for people attending job interviews. Some items will be passed on to the homeless or migrant families, and even imperfect items can be restored by our thrifty volunteers. More and more clothing rental schemes are popping up, for those looking to stay up to date with trends or attend that glitzy event without filling up their wardrobes with items they’ll only use once or twice. And of course, online platforms such as Vinted and Depop also make it really easy to buy secondhand clothes with specific criteria. It’s even really easy to sell your own!
Let’s help fashion get out of the fast lane and live life a little slower.
Author: Tiny Travel Rebel