How to be Unique in your Clothing choice
Today it seems clear that a change in the fashion industry is important, and that we all can play a part! Working in the textile business for more than 25 years, and seeing all the damage done on a human and environmental level, I am still surprised to see how some brands can continue with their outdated and unsustainable business model while encouraging young people to buy more and more.
Sewing your clothing is more expensive than buying "Fast Fashion" clothing.
When I was young, I did not get new T-shirts and jeans every month. Depending on how fast you grew, either my mother made our clothes or we bought 1 or 2 pairs of pants a season. I was lucky to grow up with grandmothers who were knitters and seamstresses. The search for a pattern, buying the yarn or the fabric together was a real pleasure, not to mention watching the product being made little by little. And finally becoming something very special and unique that only I owned.
Apart from some DIY seamstresses, today it does not make sense on a price level to sew your own clothes. Fabrics and patterns often cost more than buying, for example, a ready-made pant from a "Fast Fashion" retailer. Younger generations have generally not had these same experiences that I did as a child. The "Fast Fashion" concept began in 1990, when the « quick response » to improve manufacturing processes in the textile industry aimed at reducing production time, moved to a market-based model of what we now called "Fast Fashion".
It is widely known that the two most visible and important results of this new model are:
- Unsafe and inhumane working conditions, including minimum wages.
- Huge environmental problems like pollution of rivers with chemicals because of the dyeing, and clothes dumped in the landfill.
Luckily today there are more and more fashion companies and organizations raising their voices and changing the way of how they do business. In 1994, Patagonia became the first outdoor apparel company to implement only 100% organic cotton in their clothing line - and that was just the start of their fantastic sustainable journey. Today a Dutch denim brand, MUD jeans, has one of the most innovative business models integrating circular economy and recycling of worn pants in their supply chain while offering modern jeans.
Teenagers prioritize brands that actively support social causes
A study from the Boston Consulting Group based on 4,000 millennials in the U.S., showed that 50% of the 13-to-14-year-olds contacted think that brands « say something about who I am, my values and where I fit in». But more important is that 48% of this generation select brands that actively support social causes. The brand they choose to wear says something about their values and about their personal value system. However young people are continuing to buy clothes they do not really need. I question if it is to deal with issues of identity, who they are, and how they want to present themselves to their friends and the world?
Is it on that motive that “Fast fashion” brands are playing? Is “Fast Fashion” really helping teenagers to work on their identity? Why are we choosing short-term satisfaction behavior which becomes a threat to a long-term survival of the planet?
Having 2 kids myself and giving them money to buy clothes, I try to explain the dark side of the fashion industry and how to choose in a responsible way. But as all teenagers, they want to look good and have their own style. It is not an easy task. It was probably easier for me when my mother was making my clothes!
However, by educating, discussing and showing videos about the living conditions of the textile workers in developing countries, which use a bleaching or other extreme treatments on, for example, denim fabrics will help change teenagers minds and buying behaviors. Progress is being made, and there are more films and reports available, like “The True Cost”, “The next Black” and “Slowing Down Fast Fashion”, which shows the real face of the fashion industry even if for some brands “greenwashing” is still on the agenda.
Therefore I think that creating awareness, showing the real face, being transparent by implementing traceability from A to Z is key. Today the textile industry is so complex that this is not an easy task but necessary to push companies forward to produce in a more respectful and sustainable way.
It is so easy to buy again and again, and forget how the people who made your clothes are living and how the environment is being damaged, because it is far away from our bedroom. Would you wish a life like that to your neighbor or your best friend?
That is why I am an advocate of creating awareness and continue to show the reality. I want to involve brands, shops, final customers and last, but not least, teenagers! So that they are more aware of what they are wearing - even if it is made far away from our comfortable lives. I invite everybody to speak up, collaborate and create awareness so we all become responsible global citizens and help drive towards better use of our fashion closet!
As a textile expert, I design creative workshops at schools to create awareness and understanding in order to implement a change. Contact me for more information on this subject!