The environmental impact of fast fashion and what we can do to help

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January 2019 News

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Fast fashion has flooded the UK and global markets both in stores and online.  It is about making fashion trends quickly and inexpensively and has the attitude of “pile it high and sell it cheap!”

There used to be two clear fashion seasons in one year (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter) but increasingly clothes stock is turned much more quickly with some retailers having up to 52 new collections per year.

This encourages us to buy continuously throughout the year whether we need to or not.

But at what cost to the environment?

Fast fashion is a key topic at the moment - it is difficult reading and ignorance is no longer bliss.  These are just some of the submissions to the Commons Environment Audit Committee looking into the impact of fast fashion (ongoing at time of writing):

  • The average person in the UK consumes 26.7kg of new clothing per year (about the size of a large suitcase).  This is the highest in Europe.
  • 235m items of clothing were sent to landfill last year.
  • Global textile production produces 1.2bn tonnes of carbon emissions a year – this is more than international flights and maritime shipping.
  • 700,000 fibres are released in a single domestic wash.  These end up in our water system and food chain.
  • 3,781 litres of water are used in the full lifetime a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.

There is a lot more information available on this topic, but one thing is clear, anyone researching in this area is definite that fast fashion is having a major impact on our environment and is contributing to the destruction of our planet.

Reducing the impact of fast fashion and making fashion sustainable can only be done with the cooperation of many governments who will need to introduce and enforce legislation to make the changes required; at the same time as helping the communities currently involved in the production processes and paying for massive clean-up operations.  The major clothing manufacturers and retailers will also need to join in, comply and introduce practices that are sustainable.  In other words, create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and in a socially responsible way.

This is no mean feat and all very overwhelming to us as individuals, but as current or potential consumers of fast fashion we can still do our bit.  That is, if we don’t buy it they won’t make it!

We have one body and seven days in the week to wear our clothes.

In modern society, rightly or wrongly, the way we present ourselves has a major impact on how we feel , how we are perceived and treated by others and as a consequence, our earning potential.

At House of Colour we have always encouraged our clients to buy fewer and higher end items of clothing and to avoid the low end high street fast fashions.  We also teach our clients how to create a capsule wardrobe which we define as "the minimum number of items to create the maximum number of outfits".  In other words, buy less but still have a wardrobe that works for your lifestyle and makes you feel great.  More about how to achieve the perfect capsule wardrobe later, but in the meantime here are some things you can start doing now:

  • Make the most of what you already have – go “shopping” in your own wardrobe.  Create outfits you have not put together before, change the accessories you always wear with those items and you instantly have a new look without actually buying something new.
  • Don’t repeat buy items you already have - how many pairs of trousers (or any other item) in the same colour do you actually need? It’s an easy rut to get into.  Instead, consider making alterations to bring something back on trend and have more of a “make do and mend” attitude.  For example, have one of those pairs of trousers altered to tapering ankle skimmers – bang on trend and for little cost (to you or the environment).
  • Remove items from your wardrobe you will definitely no longer use – and let someone else make use of them.  They are no use to anyone sat in your wardrobe not seeing the light of day.  Do not create landfill. Donate items to charity shops, sell through dress agencies or online resale sites.  It will stop someone else buying something new!
  • Consider where you are making purchases – look out for vintage and pre-loved items.  Go to the charity shops, dress agencies and online resale sites.  Be the person who bought one of these items instead of buying something new.
  • Buy higher end than the fast fashion retailers – they typically (but not always, so do your research) have better ethics in terms of their supply chains.  Buy cheap and generally someone else pays.  These items will typically look good and last for longer too.
  • Think about cost per wear – the actual cost or value of an item is not the purchase price, but that over the number of times you are going to wear it.  Shopping at the lower poor-quality end of the high street leads to poor cost per wear since items quickly look shabby and can no longer be worn.  Shop at the designer end of the market and you’ll have to wear something every day for the rest of your life to get great cost per wear.  Aim in the middle – higher end high street usually strikes the right balance.
  • Buy timeless clothing – there are some items of clothing we wear whatever is going on with high street fashions.  These are the things that you could purchase 20 years ago, can still do so now and will probably be able to purchase in 20 years time.  Good examples include; polo-neck and cable knit jumpers, classic button cardigans, ballet pumps and court shoes.  You can buy these items knowing they will give you great cost per wear because they just don’t date.
  • Don’t hobby-shop – by all means go shopping with your friends and have a great time doing so but don’t feel the need to actually buy something.  It takes your “sensible head” to create a great wardrobe that really works for you, after all, you wouldn’t shop for carpets and furniture in this way, yet most of us spend more money on clothes than any of these things.
  • Create a capsule wardrobe – capsule wardrobes are more environmentally friendly because they enable you to buy fewer, higher end items that last you longer. The individual items are versatile because they mix and match with other items giving you lots of possible outfits and looks and therefore at great cost per wear.

So as you can see there are many things we can start doing now to reduce the impact of our shopping habits on the environment.  If we take action now as individuals and as consumers then we can make a difference.

At House of Colour, we are committed to help you create a perfect capsule wardrobe that works for you and your lifestyle and still makes you feel great.   It will also save you money, because you buy less which means you also store less in your wardrobe - your bedroom does not need to look like a warehouse or jumble sale!

House of Colour’s - 3 step programme will help you achieve this for yourself

Step 1. Colour – the basis for a great capsule wardrobe is to use one of 4 seasonal colour palettes.  We can help you find the right one based on your natural skin, eye and hair colour.  When all your clothes are from one colour palette then they go with each other more readily.

Step 2. Style – knowing the character, cuts and lengths of the best clothing for you means you make fewer mistakes when shopping and you don’t end up with unworn items lurking in your wardrobe.  This also has the effect that you feel less need to keep up with the very latest fashion trends but are more inclined to think about presenting yourself credibly and authentically whatever is going on in the high street.

Step 3. Make-Up – make-up is also part of your capsule wardrobe.  Buying make up from one colour palette means you need fewer items.  Make-up in your best colours will always go with you and all your clothes rather than having different make up items and colours for the different outfits you wear.  It will also make you look amazing and will never looks wrong or garish because your make up will be from your own natural colour palette.  Wearing your colours also does half the job of making you look fresh, healthy and vibrant which means you actually need to wear less make up to look your very best.

If you would like to find out more about how to create your own capsule wardrobe then click through to our 3 step programme or find a House of Colour Consultant in your area.