Is Your Retail Therapy Hurting the Planet?

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Top - Glassons
Skirt - ASOS

That dress you just pulled out of your wardrobe, like any other piece of clothing, you will probably only wear it seven times before tossing it out.

Now take a closer look at your closet, if you’re like the almost 40 per cent of millennials out there, you’ve probably purchased half of it in the last 12 months.

And 30 per cent of that will likely be thrown out after one wear. Australians throw out over $550 million of clothing and textiles to landfill each year.

That’s 30kg each for you and me.

As a society, we buy 400 per cent more clothes today than just 20 years ago. We produce 80 billion clothes each year and our American counterparts buy 64 of these each in a year alone. Their UK friends buy 2.15 million tonnes of clothes and shoes. This is despite the fact that as a country, they have a total of £30 billion worth of unused clothing sitting in their closets. Do these statistics sound crazy to you? They are.

Today, fashion has become increasingly available to everyone. Fast-fashion stores like Zara, H&M and more are bringing runway pieces to the masses. But as the price goes down, so has the number of wears. Although a lot of us donate the clothes we don’t want, to charity bins and stores, it’s a small band-aid to overcome a much larger beast – our overindulgence in fashion, like many other things, is harming Planet Earth. A measly 15 per cent of clothes donated to charities are actually sold again in op-shops. Most, are sent to developing countries. Sub-saharan Africa gets the largest chunk, a third of all globally donated clothes land up there. Although our insatiable hunger for shiny new clothes continues to grow, the same trend doesn’t extend to the second-hand clothing market. Asian stores have made buying the next date night outfit cheaper than take-out. And developing nations have also decided to say no to being our dumping ground for discarded clothing – Africa’s own textiles industry took a hit under our ‘generosity’. Thus, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi announced their own plans to stop importing second-hand clothes from the UK and US by next year. The take-away from all this: the brand new trousers you just impulse bought are going to cost the planet a lot more than the $70 you spent on it.

This isn’t to say you stop shopping. It’s just a reminder to buy thoughtfully and to take pride in what you buy. Curating fashionable looks that you put thought into, can help you get attached to each and every piece you own. Every time you wear, it’ll remind you of how much Sally from Advertising or your neighbour Rob loved it. Fashion doesn’t have to be about copying every trend. It can be about rummaging through the clutter to find the best of the best and turning that into something timeless. And, look after your clothes. You don’t have to buy a $300 top to make it last a few years, you can get that longevity from something a quarter of the price too. The key is to know your materials and how to look after them.  And most importantly, repeat after me: I will not get carried away by a sale. We all have been all too guilty of buying that shoe reduced on 70 per cent that’s a size too small. It may sound cheesy to say this, but fashion really can be timeless.

Links à la Mode, May 10th, 2018

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