If you think you never have enough clothes, think again.
2700 liters of water is required to make one cotton t-shirt; that’s the amount of water an average person drinks in about two and a half years. Out of the 100 billion garments made every year, more than 90 percent end up in landfills. According to the UN, the fashion and textile industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse emissions annually. The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world. We approximately produce 45 thousand meters of fabric wastages daily. So, every time you decide you don’t want to repeat an outfit, there are thousands of young underpaid workers possibly risking their lives to make it for you.
While you’re not solely responsible for all of this waste, chances are that you are aiding the growth of one of the most toxic cultures in this industry – fast fashion. Fast fashion, by definition, is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the increased demand for the latest trends. These are retailers that can make trendy clothes that are quick, cheap, and disposable. The leading fast fashion brands in the world are the ones you probably take a trip to the most- Fashion Nova, Popshop, H&M, and Zara.
More often than not, such clothes are knockoffs from designers that make you look trendy without burning a hole in your pocket. I get why we all can’t live without these brands. I mean, who doesn’t want to look like a million dollars at a hundredth the price?
What we don’t realize is the effect this has on our planet. Their production is insanely high, as is its wastage. Luxury brands release their collections in two or three seasons per year. In fast fashion, new clothes are churned as often as once a week. That adds up to 52 seasons a year. These brands invest a lot of money to advertise that to look fashionable, we need to keep revamping our wardrobe as often as possible.
In addition to all of this, a majority of such brands indulge in greenwashing, i.e., marketing tactics that make them seem more “green” or sustainable than they are. For example, many brands have exclusive clothing lines that they claim to be sustainable which tricks their customers into thinking they’re buying environment-friendly garments while in reality these clothes are just as bad but come with a higher price tag. Another strategy that they adopt is- asking customers to donate their old clothes in exchange for a discount. Most of these clothes end up in landfills and are burnt, and it’s only a way to make their customers purchase more from them and feel holier-than-thou. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
On the bright side, this is an issue where we as individuals can make a difference.
Buy from cleaner brands like Marks & Spencers, Adidas, etc.
The app Good on you is endorsed by Emma Watson and rates brands based on how sustainable they are. So the next time you decide to shop, opt for a brand that has a rating above 4.
The lockdown witnessed a huge rise in the number of small businesses around the world. These businesses are mostly locally sourced, do not produce on a large scale, and cause much less wastage. Supporting them also means contributing to your own country’s economy, and being a contributor to the ‘vocal for local’ movement.
There are also a bunch of sustainable labels that adopt cleaner practices such as No Nasties, Sparrow, Doodlage, Aarjavee, and Sui. While clothes from such brands might be on the pricier side, they will last you longer. If you’re on a budget, try thrifting. Some of my favorite stores are shop.retrodays.in, Mumbaithrifts, and Copperboomvintage. There are tonnes of other Instagram thrifting stores that sell vintage and preloved clothes at an affordable price. Hoarders, this is your cue to sell all the clothes that you don’t wear anymore. Declutter your wardrobe (Marie Kondo and I would be proud of you).
Do not let influencers with their ‘I-spent-30-thousand-bucks’ hauls fool you. Most influencers show everything they’ve bought in haul videos as this exempts them from paying tax for the clothes. Buy clothes only when you need to. I don’t mean to say you shouldn’t buy a new outfit for your birthday, but maybe you can live without using retail therapy as a coping mechanism.
Before buying a piece of clothing, consider if you will be able to style it with three or more pieces that already exist in your wardrobe. Repeating clothes isn’t uncool. If it feels like you’re stuck in a rut, there is a sea of one-garment-styled-in-10-ways videos on youtube that might help you shake things up a bit.
Unleash your creative side- make cute scrunchies and bandannas from your old t-shirts, style your dad’s oversized shirts, make a lehenga from your mom’s old saree, tie-dye your basic tees to amp them up- go crazy! Anything recycled is a big yes. Instead of chasing trends, try and develop a personal style that people will start identifying you with. This will save your time, money, and the planet. Plus, there’s the added advantage of having an aesthetic for yourself.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to repeat your outfits at any cost, try renting them instead. Try out brands like Stage Three, Rent the runway, Flyrobe, and the Clothing Rental where you’ll be able to find designer clothes for every occasion and can avoid repeating your outfits.
Just have fun without cluttering the planet too much and your wardrobe will thank you too.