By Tara Trevaskis Hoskin
The New Year is often celebrated as a time for change, with many people making resolutions and goals for the year ahead. This trend has not been wasted on marketing strategies worldwide, with consumerism now infiltrating many people’s personal goals in January. Getting more exercise is sold to you, with January sales gym memberships; and eating better is advertised with diet plans and expensive juices. So often, we are told that in order to start something new or to reach our goals, we must firstly buy into a product or idea. Well this year, I am hoping to move away from this approach; to start something new, by embracing the old.
This year I am vowing not to buy any new clothes, in a bid to make my wardrobe more sustainable. Fast fashion by definition is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” Making cheap clothes that are made to be worn once and then forgotten about has horrific environmental implications. According to Oxfam Ireland, half a tonne of clothing is disposed of in landfills in Ireland every minute. A report by Greenpeace found that globally, the textile industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of Co2 annually. This is a higher figure than the carbon footprint of both international flights and shipping each year.
However, it is not only the environment that the trend led fast fashion industry has a negative impact on. The people who make these garments are often mistreated, under paid and sometimes even underage. Globally, on average, garment workers earn much less than the national average. A study carried out by the University of Leicester found that between 75-90% of garment workers in the East Midlands region of the UK were only making £3 an hour, despite the hourly minimum wage rate being £6.50 at the time. The International Labour Organisation estimates that worldwide, 170 million children are forced to work, with many of them engaged in the textile industry. Cheap clothing is equal to cheap labour and while this quick–buy mentality may benefit us, the consumer, in the short term; it abuses vulnerable workers in the long term. It is easy to see a dress on sale for €5 and instantly think you’ve bagged a bargain, but we must ask ourselves how something that takes so many steps to be produced can be sold at such a low price?
Giving up buying new garments does not mean you have to say goodbye to fashion and live the rest of your life in one pair of jeans and an old jumper. Sustainable fashion is not something that has to be ugly and sensible; in fact, it can make your style more creative as you are challenged to think before buying. Fashion is a creative outlet and something that we can still celebrate without buying into an industry that is destroying our environment and abusing human rights. Sustainable fashion is a growing movement, and with influencers such as Molly Parsons and Keelin Moncrieff making content focused on a more environmentally friendly way of enjoying fashion, educating yourself is more accessible than ever. Shopping in vintage shops such as Public Romance or Angelz vintage, (Keelin Moncrieff’s pop–up) both based in Galway, means you don’t contribute to the cycle of fast fashion, as well as recycling garments that may have otherwise been forgotten or ended up in landfill.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that shopping vintage is more expensive than online shopping; and while living on a budget, this can sometimes make sustainable fashion feel inaccessible. Charity shops are basically vintage shops void of the cool Instagram pages and some good marketing. This is a much cheaper alternative to shopping exclusively in vintage shops and you also support a good cause. From the Cope shop to Galway Simon and The Irish Cancer Society’s Charity Shop, there is an array of options to support more sustainable fashion choices on a budget. Depop is a good app if you are looking for something specific, where people can sell and swap their preloved items. Even by swapping clothes with your friends, wearing an outfit more than once or simply by buying clothes to last, you are making a small impact to lessening the negative effects of fast fashion.