The Fall fashion runway shows are over and many shoppers are thinking about how they can wear some version of the latest showcased fashion trend especially during the holiday season. At the same time, the fashion industry is grappling with another trend dominating the news – the future of the industry in a world where there is a focus on developing products that are sustainable and create less waste on the planet. It is an important issue to consider but one that most people ignore when they are searching for that perfect outfit! Did you know that every American produces about 75 pounds of textile waste a year? This textile waste usually ends up in landfills. Also, the chemicals used to process these garments are very harmful and the production of these garments contributes to more than 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that have an impact on climate change.
How did we get here? In a recent article in The New York Times entitled “How to Buy Clothes that are Built to Last”, Kendra Pierre-Louis provides some answers. In the article, Pierre-Louis discusses the development of fast fashion, one major trend in the industry that has had an adverse impact on the environment. Fueled by companies such as Zara and H&M, fast fashion companies offer shoppers garments that are not designed to last very long. In fact, most of these garments are constructed so that the buyer will use them not more than ten times before they lose their fashion appeal or worse, fall apart. As you can guess, the discards then become part of the textile waste that accumulates in landfill mounds.
So what are people used to the cycle of acquire, wear, and discard clothing to do? Pierre-Louis suggests that it is time for clothing shoppers to consider the acquisition of new clothing from an entirely new perspective. Instead of embracing fast fashion, why not buy garments that are “built to last”? In other words, when you are ready to buy an item of clothing think of it as a long term investment. This sounds like a great idea and is in sync with the goal of reducing waste but for many people, the idea of buying something that is “built to last” so that it will be in their closets or drawers for more than one season is horrifying. Also, many of the garments that are currently made which are marketed as “sustainable” may not be appealing to everyone except the most diehard environmentalists. For example, the designer Stella McCartney does not use leather or fur in her collections and has a line which only uses “reclaimed cashmere” for sweaters. Yes it is Stella McCartney but still - “reclaimed cashmere”? Would you wear re-cycled garments made out of “reclaimed cashmere”?
Pierre-Louis tries to find a middle ground which focuses on giving clothing buyers a way to be environmentally conscious but still be able to buy things that look and feel good. She suggests that clothing buyers embrace slow fashion. The idea of slow fashion is to curtail the trend toward the alarming consumption of clothing and instead encourage consumers to buy fewer items that are made well and have a timeless appeal. She poses a number of questions that these buyers should consider when buying any garment. At the top of her list is "Will I wear it again?" which believe it or not is very important for those who buy an outfit so they can be seen in it and photographed for Instagram. These people often buy something, wear it once and then return it to the store. However, as the author points out, even celebrities are wearing clothing more than once at public events. Case in point - Tiffany Haddish, an American actress who has starred in many TV shows, has worn the same $4000 Alexander McQueen dress over and over again when she is out “on the town”. Admit it - you can re-wear that beautiful outfit that looks great on you and be photographed on Instagram wearing it at another venue!
Want to know more about this topic and the other questions you need to ask yourself when you go clothes shopping for this season? Look for my weekly blog which will appear each Monday morning. I welcome your comments and invite you to shop my handcrafted slow fashion coats, jackets, capes and accessories at my store - www.neenazeve.com !