Not as many industries take as much advantage of immediate consumption as the fashion industry. It goes beyond dressing in a certain way or wanting to express a feeling through an outfit. What we have been experiencing in the past five-to-ten years is the overwhelming growth of fast fashion, and the absolute need to keep consuming it generates.
The necessity of consuming can be divided into two : the one providing life needs , and the kind that you use up, more superficial and where the fast-fashion finds its place.
Causes and consequences
Guido Brera, an Italian Investment Manager, spoke up about society versus consumption for the documentary The True Cost.
“All the things people really need are very costly, like home, studies, life insurance, and so on. On the other side, there is a source of consolation, part of their life. They can buy one t-shirt, two t-shirts per day. It’s a feeling like, although I am really poor and I’ve lost all the things I really needed, I still hold the power to consume” – Guido Brera
Have you noticed how nowadays, anytime you go to a mall, there is a massive sale happening? There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it’s all a trap ! The prices are set high prior to the pieces hitting the store. That is a trick to allow stores to promote extremely high discounts once such pieces aren’t sold, but still, make a massive merge over it.
It makes one wonder if the price is so low without – alleged – 70% of it, how much was this production even?
It is not about the quality, but quantity. Large quantities reduce production costs for the brands and a marge of negociation easier with the factories.
Even though the consumer knows that piece will perhaps fall apart after one washing, it seems that is still worth it at that moment. Social media doesn’t help with that either. The need to consume is created based on what you see over a feed: influencers wearing a new set of pieces from certain brands, and you know that will be sold out the next day. With that, comes the urge: hurry, if you want to be on the current trend ! The latest influencer fad on Tik Tok ? The Keep or Return challenge. The latter consists of ordering as many products as possible online, creating your looks, posting them a few hours later and having them validated by your followers. What they approve is kept, what they don’t like is returned, free of charge, to the brands stock and the customer is refunded… The operation can be, eternally, repeated…
What is not considered most of the time, is how these pieces were made. Among the top five apparel manufacturing markets worldwide, India’s own fashion demand from the outside is also growing, and it is now almost controlling the world. Reaching almost the level with China since the Coronavirus pandemic has started.
Due to their overpopulation, combined with economic issues, workers would be sewing pieces for over 12 hours per day, in unhuman conditions, to supply this chain. How much would they earn, you would ask? Less than 50 dollars per month.
With the urge to grow production, a pressure majorly created by fast fashion brands on their factories, India bumped into the huge problematic scenario of adding more manual workers to large and cheap spaces. That resulted in a large number of people in the same inconsistent building, which not much after resulted in a wave of building collapses in India. The biggest one dated and published so far, was the fall of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, on April 24th, 2013. According to Fashion Revolution, 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history.
We also have global inflation soaring, exacerbated by the geopolitical tension in the most recent war, Ukraine and Russia, reflected in sky-high food and energy prices. With that, another huge mass production country takes a hit: China. Its factory-gate inflation accelerated to a 13-year high, adding to the pressure on global consumer prices which have been pushed up by a commodities boom, soaring shipping costs, and uneven economic recovery from the pandemic. That reduced production throws its weight back at India, and the cycle repeats itself.
The environmental impact grows and the economic and political power of high social classes too, caused by a demand intensified from the entired world. The industry’s boundaries spread globally and its multitiered supply chain remains complex and opaque. Thanks to trade liberalization, globalization, and enduring cost pressures, very few brands own the assets of their upstream factories, and most companies outsource final production.
This complexity and lack of transparency mean estimates of the industry’s carbon impact range from 4% to 10% of overall global carbon emissions, according to the latest United Nations report on that matter.
In simple words, every new piece produced generates a growing amount of carbon prints, waste of water, waste of material, and a long road of trash to be expelled into the wild environment again. By buying that cheap t-shirt, you are pretty much helping global warming to continue taking over the world. For example, manufacturing a single pair of denim jeans produces 44 pounds of CO2, roughly equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from driving a passenger car nearly 50 miles. And what is done with the old pieces that weren’t sold, or were thrown away by the consumer? They keep accumulating trash.
The short-documentary Unravel: The final resting place of your cast-off clothing directed by Meghna Gupta shows in only 13 minutes what happens when you throw an outfit “away” from your dressing in a bad way.
Did you know up to 2022, we purchase 80 million pieces of new clothing each year? That’s 400% more than the amount we bought just two decades ago. The fashion industry produces about 53 million tonnes of fiber every year, 70% of which ends up in garbage dumps, or is incinerated.
Still, even though the current number of production is scary, the production of fiber is expected to reach 160 million tonnes by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The idea of sustainability cannot be just enforced by manufacturers, it also depends on customers to be conscious of their choices. Have you ever tried to avoid consuming fast fashion, even for a short period of time?
It can appear as a huge challenge : cheap and easy fashion consumption is everywhere, and the need is created on a simple ride in the subway, a walk around a plaza, or on any social media feed.
Collectively, we must take action understanding each and every one of us is a vehicle for change. It’s all about focusing on more responsible choices, and understanding where we – consumers – stand on the supply chain.
If you’re asking yourself how to support such damage control, being conscious is the first step. That is how sustainable fashion fits as part of various alternatives. Sustainable fashion is the term that describes products, processes, and activities focusing on a carbon-neutral industry, while the consumption wants also to be responsible and then it’s all about vintage, second hand, and exchanging clothes instead of purchasing cheap, low-quality brand new pieces.
Considering that, Somewhere A Process tries to contribute with its curation of vintage, second-hand, and archives from independent brands. The main goal is to bring consciousness to the way of consumption, reduce the need for quantity versus quality, and work alongside fleamarkets and solidarity stores such as Emmaus in France, Humana in Portugal which were born with the intention of associations to improve life of social low classes, first of all and which now seem totally fit to environmental challenges. Proving that, we have proof that it is possible to be aesthetically pleasing, while sustainable.
The mass production will not be ceased anytime soon, so we have deciding to support conscious consumption: a piece that will last forever doesn’t generate new trash into the world, doesn’t produce new carbon prints, and is still trendy. Besides that, Somewhere A Process is a place where curation is the center of the concept but also where all events, collaborations, and travels are reunited to always showcase original and sustainable products from different fashion designers from all over the world. The brands are curated based on its aesthetic values, along with the longevity of the products.
Fashion and dressing up are, after all, about mental power. A new piece on the body brings not only self-confidence but empowerment. Some special occasions, such as a wedding, for example, require a brand new specific outfit that often isn’t available in the wardrobe – it is understandable.
However, besides upcycling and recycling, there is now a growing community of lending and trading clothes. If you need to go to a wedding, there isn’t the need to purchase a new set to feel good: you can simply borrow it. The best way is to deep dive a bit more into the brand you buy products from.
Nowadays it is easier to find transparent brands. To produce a piece, there is a long chain of actions in the background, and although reproducing such actions by being more conscious might be hard, it is not impossible.
We have Ganni as an example. The Danish brand releases a yearly Responsibility Report, where they define milestones to be reached when it comes to circularity, production, materials, waste generation, and even partnerships with platforms such as Vestiaire Collective to re-sell old collections at a better price, circulating the pieces fairly.
If you haven’t met Vestiaire Collective, it is also a great alternative for those who want to purchase longevity pieces, but used ones in good shape. The platform helps recycle pieces on the premise that passing unique pieces forward is always better than keeping that in your closet. Another trustworthy brand, that can be found at Somewhere A Process, is Oh Seven Days. The label’s main focus is to create sustainable staples from dead stock fabrics, so all the collections are made of fast-fashion leftovers, producing the garments with sustainability in mind. The founder, Megan Mummery shares at the maximum lever as possible the behind the scenes of the production process of her collections via the social media. It’s all about the small but powerful details when it comes to consuming in a conscious way.
To get to know our permanent vintage curation and sustainable small business collections in Lisbon, visit Somewhere A Process .You can also find us on our e-shop and Instagram. Our fashion selection comes from Paris, London, Berlin, Milan, Amsterdam…
Somewhere A Process concept-store From Wednesday to Sunday 12pm -7pm Rua Damasceno Monteiro 104C 1170 -113 Lisbon Portugal
- The Business of Advertising by Earnest Elmo Calkins
- Indian fashion industry on the verge of collapse The Economic Times
- Luxury’s Hidden Indian Supply Chain NY Times
- The True Cost Secrets, Behind Fashion Industry un documentaire signé Andrew Morgan
- The Myth of Sustainable Fashion Harvard Business Review
- 36 facts about fast fashion that will (hopefully) inspire you to embrace the slow fashion movement via www.bloomberg.com
- Understanding sustainable fashion and what it means to you