It’s exam season now for university students like me so pretty much everything is described as one word: stress. The only comfort to this is that, it’s my final hurdle and I should give my best (or perhaps I just want to be done with finals already). Because it’s the exam season, you tend to get so much inspiration (read as: distractions) and as for me, I’ve probably spend more time reading on environmental articles, environment NGOs in Malaysia and even constructing ideas on how WWF Malaysia can improve on their work. I’ve also had few thoughts about cancer, which I will share soon but today I will be talking a bit about fast fashion industry.
For those of you who’ve never heard of fast fashion before, it’s basically a contemporary word retailers use to describe the constant rapid exchange in trends to meet the growing demand of consumers. Fast fashion are usually collection from Fashion Week presented for different seasons but with emphasis in certain aspect of production which is often the price factor. Also known as “supermarket” market, fast fashion is a manufacturing model developed to adopt quick response towards the growing and ever-changing demand of consumers in the industry. Some examples of the large retailers include H&M, Zara, Primark and Topshop. Ever since fast fashion is adopted in the market, clothing consumption have been on the rise globally. Competition and cheap prices contribute to the drastic increase level of consumption, making clothing easier to be replaced without too much opportunity cost. Fast fashion, without any doubt have boosted the economy of some countries particularly the third world countries. Many of the large retailers manufacture and produce their clothing line from countries such as Morocco, India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia too. Textile production and job opportunities have been growing to meet demands in the fashion industry as well and this has helped many of the people to be out from the poverty cycle.
While this has definitely bring some benefit to the economy, we cannot ignore the fact that this is also one of the main contributor to pollution nowadays. Not only that the level of wastage increased but manufacturing processes are also polluting the environment. On top of that, to produce at cheap prices retailers take advantage of the cheap raw materials in the third world countries and this include the labors that work in the production sector. There have been many cases where retailers fail to abide rules regarding labors and have been accused to be overworking the workers. This has caused many sustainable clothing line to enter the market with objective of producing ethical and sustainable clothes for people. More and more awareness campaigns have been done to educate consumers the impact of fast fashion. Some of the famous tagline includes ‘who made your clothes’ and ‘you are what you wear’. Even companies are starting to acknowledge that consumers now are shifting their demand from just fashion to ethical fashion. A few brands have introduced their own CSR activity to promote sustainable clothing, for example H&M Conscious, Monsoon, FatFace and Monki. Independent sustainable clothing line such as WoolAndTheGang, People Tree UK and GatherandSee are getting more attention from consumers with their sustainable efforts. My personal favourite is WoolandTheGang and their project on using unwanted clothes to become recycled yarns for knitting and crochet purpose.
So I did a bit of research on sustainable clothing in Malaysia and found a lack of awareness about clothing consumption. While this is understandable because in Malaysia we push forward on fashion marketing to boost the economy, it is also important to realize the impact of excess and irresponsible fashion consumption. One of the ways we can help lessen the impact is to recycle instead of throwing away our unwanted clothes. We can recreate clothes as well as there are many DIY projects online these days. There are also many ways to recycle – put it in a recycling bin, give away to those who needs clothes (charity organisations, homeless people etc etc) or sell it as second hand products. You can transform your unwanted clothes to many things such as cushion covers, material lining, table cloth or can even use it to wipe dry your plates !
I know to be honest it’s a lot easier to dump it to the bin once you’re bored of your clothes and have it replaced with new ones but let’s take a few extra minutes before coming to that decision and think of how you can use the clothes in other ways beside throwing it away. It helps to think about those people who work really hard to meet your constant demand in fashion. Before going on a shopping spree, you could go through your wardrobe to see what you have, what you need and what you might put away so that you don’t purchase only to realize later that you’ve already got similar style.
A piece of clothing is not just represented by price anymore, but also every aspect that is involved in creating that piece to be on your clothing rack.