By Josie Gudgeon
Many of us believe the fast fashion industry is the fundamental cause of the sustainable issues we face. I believe our biggest issue in stopping popular clothing brands becoming more sustainable is us as a consumer; either through our lack of awareness of the problems faced by the industry or through an unwillingness’ to pay the premium for sustainable products.
The fashion industry has taken credible steps to reduce its environmental footprint. For example, using the Better Cotton Initiative which has the potential to lift farmers out of poverty by providing a more stable income and a healthy working environment. Also, they are using numerous energy and chemical saving schemes through the supply chain.
Although the problem has now shifted from the production to the consumption, the insistent appetite for fashion has spiralled out of control and people are buying more and more unnecessary clothing. In the last decade, there has been a 10% increase in the amount of clothing purchased in the UK. Not only are consumers purchasing more clothes, but the rate at which they are discarding them is becoming increasingly quicker. This is because we are chasing the latest fashion trends.
A popular high street retailer which is considered to be one of the ‘UK’s giants’, having over 500 stores worldwide, enjoyed global success and collaboration with a number of artist and celebrities.
But is the brand sustainable? They have put a number of commendable measures in place, including recycling 95% of their waste products in UK stores. Also, they source 100% of their energy from renewables and are reducing their water and energy consumption in warehouses, offices and stores. Along with this, they are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, aiming to help farmers produce cotton in a more sustainable way. However, how much cotton is used from the Better Cotton Initiative is unclear.
Factory Seconds Collector
To help reduce harming the environment this major retailer has assigned an “authorized person” such as the local council or a factory seconds collector who will collect the waste from the storehouses. Here in Huddersfield Alex Lloyd joins us every Saturday at the Huddersfield Market as a factory seconds collector. He brings damaged items that cannot be sold on the rails, along with items that have expired their shop floor life.
Talking to Alex Lloyd about being a factory seconds collector, he says that although he does not make a lot of money from doing this nor does he lose money now. Before he used to take the waste stock to landfill sites and as a result, he was charged tipping fees. By setting up his family business ‘Labels Yorkshire Limited’ with a small shop in Ossett and having the market stall in Huddersfield’s every Saturday, allowed him to reduce the amount of waste he was tipping. This gained him some profit from the waste and gave people like us fashionable style for bargain prices.
Huddersfield’s Textile Heritage
As Huddersfield is a student town and has a textile heritage, the University of Huddersfield has a very strong fashion and textiles department. Alex believes that for students like me in the textiles department, it allows us to pick up clothing for as little as £1. The items may have minor damages but with basic sewing knowledge, they can be fixed. This allows you to have a high-quality garment at a reasonable price. Alex acknowledges the cost of fabric and materials which goes into fashion and costume courses. The waste stock that is provided on Alex’s stall offers a range of patterned and textured material to be cut up and used for garment making at low costs. This is ideal for students in the art and textiles department to get their hands-on different fabrics for their projects within a reasonable budget.
Alex, who has been a factory seconds collector for over 40 years, believes that the fashion industry does need to make a more conscious effort to be more sustainable. Alex states how he has witnessed first hand that many waste clothing banks will not take the clothing goods unless they are in perfect condition. This defeats the fermentation of the waste clothing banks.
Personally, I believe we must use waste collection centres or market stores like Labels Yorkshire Limited. This is not only to grab yourself a bargain but also to reduce the environmental impact which stops unnecessary waste going into landfills. As a consequence of using these collection centres, we would slow down the fast-fashion chain due to a reduction in demand. In turn, this would break the cycle leading to less waste and a happier healthier environment.
But how else can we slow down and break the fast fashion cycle? As I mentioned earlier it’s us fuelling the fast-fashion chain and therefore it’s us causing the fashion industry to be unsustainable.
We need to break down the shopping habits of a lifetime or even use places such as charity shops. This is where we can donate are once-loved items. By doing this, someone else can continue that garments life instead of sending masses of unnecessary clothes into landfill.
For me being a student and loving the fashion industry, I love to keep up with trends but do not believe in feeding this fast fashion industry and I don’t have a dependable income to spend large amounts of money on sustainable garments. So for me, thrifting is a unique way to find one-of-a-kind pieces. Fashion is about expressing your creativity and here you can, wearing your own clothing combs or even modify the clothing you find to show just how creative you can be.
However, due to ethical consumption, it is thought that the model will shift in behaviour. It is thought that over time we may shift to slow fashion and it may in fact become the norm for consumers to buy products, have their garments and style that will last for years rather than just as little as weeks or even months.