The real price behind your cheap clothing. A quick look around the high street reveals dresses for under a tenner and you can even get a bikini for £1.
An investigation shows consumers in the UK now buy five times as many items of clothing as they did in the 1980s. This has highlighted concerns that the fashion industry is becoming increasingly dominated by throwaway ‘fast fashion’.
According to research by McKinsey, the production of clothing doubled from 2000 to 2014. Each consumer bought 60 percent more clothing in 2014 than in 2000 but kept the items for half as long. Apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63 percent in the next 10 years and less than 1 percent of all clothing produced globally is recycled.
The convenience of online shopping, falling prices and social media marketing are behind the trend.
Consumers have little qualms about throwing away good garments and this has raised fears about the environmental impact.
Discarded clothes are piling up in our landfills and repeated washing means synthetic fiber fragments are flowing into the oceans, being ingested by fish.
The real price behind your cheap clothing
What is the Government doing?
Members of House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee put forward recommendations to try and force the fashion industry to reform labor and environmental practices in its supply chain.
These proposals include compelling fashion makers to pay 1 pence per item to fund recycling schemes. Tax-incentives to encourage re-use, reduce and recycle and a ban on incinerating or landfill as well as mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers.
Presently, the government is favoring a volunteer approach, encouraging retailers to sign up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.
One person opposed to this 1p-per-garment fashion tax is designer Katharine Hamnett, who fears the fashion industry would end up paying workers less to absorb the tax.
However, she is in favor of EU legislation making it mandatory for goods from outside the EU to meet the standards required by the region.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reason we say legislation is that the brands are not going to do it willingly – we’ve seen that, we’ve been talking about this for too long and nothing’s changed. They have to be forced by law.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to force brands to pay their workers properly, and not discharge toxic chemicals into the environment, rather than making them pay for the privilege to do that?”
The plight of those who make our clothes came to shocking relief in 2014, with the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh
There was immense pressure to improve conditions. Some retailers – such as H&M and Converse – have published lists of their suppliers, responding to calls for greater transparency.
But as workers are paid a better wage, companies look elsewhere to keep costs down.
In Ethiopia, wages are on average just a third of the rates than that in Bangladesh.
Workers at a factory revealed that conditions are intolerable. Some have their overtime withheld and women having their abdomens felt by hiring managers to check if they were pregnant.
What about the environmental costs?
Textile production is claimed to contribute more to climate change than aviation and shipping combined.
A single shirt and pair of jeans can take up to 20,000 liters of water to produce.
A polyester shirt made from virgin material has a far larger carbon footprint.
Transporting items increases that further and dying fabrics can introduce more pollutants.
As mentioned before, microplastic fibers shedding into our waterways is becoming an increasing problem, with a single washing machine load releasing hundreds of thousands of fibers.
What are businesses doing?
There are retailers that are looking to improve how they source and their processes. Zara has recently pledged to switch to 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025.
Ralph Lauren has announced their sustainability goals, aiming to use 100% of sustainably-sourced ‘key’ materials – such as cotton, polyester, and viscose – by 2025.
Here at Fashion.ie we always promote fashion sustainability. Where possible, please exchange your clothing with others to increase their longevity which ensures they do not go towards landfill which is bad for the environment.
Always check out how and where your clothes, beauty products and accessories are made before purchase to ensure they are not only ethically produced but environmentally friendly. We can all play our part and make the difference to working towards a better and cleaner fashion environment here in Ireland.
The real price behind your cheap clothing