During ‘Green Week’ I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘Sustainability in Fashion’ talk lead by Sarah, a Traid ambassador (www.traid.org.uk), held at the London Metropolitan University in Whitechapel.
“TRAID are a reuse clothes charity dedicated to improving working practices within the textile industry with a holistic and circular approach to reusing the nation’s unwanted clothes. TRAID ‘takes’ you on a journey from the cotton field to Oxford Street and beyond, and explore’s’ the reasons why we have an unhealthy relationship with our clothes. TRAID offer up solutions to the injustices within the industry in the UK and globally to promote a more thoughtful and considered way to produce, consume and use our clothes”.
The statistics are astounding. It makes me stop, think and ponder about the magnitude of effects caused from over manufacturing, over purchasing, over consumption, incredible waste, negligence through poor manufacturing and design which leads to a shorter shelf life as the garment is no longer needed or required to do what it was originally set out to achieve.
Q “450,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill each …. which equates to about £140 million pounds, which is then incinerated, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere”.
Sarah went on to say that roughly 20% of production is never even sold.
I find these such interesting facts to listen, breathe in, contemplate, understand and digest – sometimes to much to physically chew on all at once. We as designers and creative types love to design, create, be imaginative. We as fashionista’s love to shop, purchase, create our unique styles. But here we see the flaw’s. On one side of the spectrum, there is the issue of manufacturing, companies that have such large minimum ordering quantities. By over producing, using up too many of the resources we are blessed with, there is this incredible amount of waste that is not used. I mean, why create something only to burn it – surely it can go to a better use?
Perhaps it also has to do with seasonal trends – meaning that if its no longer ‘in trend’, in regards to what we are told by magazines and publications, etc, then we have to be fast to move on in to the next ‘trending style’, and all those items that have been over produced and no longer selling are then disregarded as waste. I guess it’s a little similar to ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’.
The other side of the spectrum is thinking that a garment can only be worn a few times in the public eye. Or buying too much, wearing and thus getting bored of it, and then throwing it out. Sometimes its even to do with repairs – perhaps people who cannot sew and repair worn clothes, may decide to get rid of items rather than invest in those repairs.
I begin to wonder how many people in the world wear a garment for only a few times and then decide to want something new to wear?
I guess its true – we purchase a new dress to attend a friend’s wedding. Its a hit. Then we are invited to a few more weddings – all of a sudden we realise we look the same in every picture. The fun is over, we now feel fed up with our purchase and so we hit the shops, looking for something new. At least we have Ebay to sell this dress or ‘pass it forward’ and give it away to a friend.
Sarah continues “From form (design/creation) to the bin is a radically fast process”. The question we have to ask is Why?, and then, What can we do about it to create change so as to reduce this process?