I’ve been meaning to write be more active on this blog when it was brought to my attention by a friend reading through my old facebook notes that I had actually written quiet an appropriate rant in 2009. Although it might be cheating, I’m just going to copy/paste it here.
I was reading last issue of Frankie the other day and found an article by some dude complaining about the state of the second hand clothing market at the moment. Clearly this was extremely important and high quality journalism. To sum up his piece in a few short sentences he was basically saying: “I’ve been op-shopping since I was still in my mother’s womb and it totally sucks now that everyone else is doing it… Op-shopping has become too competitive and overpriced. I am too cool for it now. Mostly because I have been out bid for vintage ties on e-bay and I have to pay more than five dollars for a shirt at St Vincent’s….” Please don’t get me wrong, I can totally relate to the stress of competing for quality items at the Op-shop. However the more I thought about what he was saying (and it was a little more in-depth than my summery) the more I feel the overwhelming need to rebut his whole statement. So here is why being a generic ‘Hipster’* is actually awesome. * refer to photo at end of blog for visual
Consumerism (Supre vs. Humanity)
Unless you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, chances are you are a consumer. Although it sounds like a dirty word there are obvious positives to being an active consumer. Like supporting the economy and getting awesome new things all the time. You’re probably well aware of what I am talking about so I will just break it down for you in a brief paragraph. Who does ‘consumerism’ have to thank for its unfathomable popularity as the chosen life style of the (western) masses? The industrial revolution. And what else wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Industrial revolution? Well apart from my iPhone, probably Global Warming.
The yearly collective global amount of money spent by consumers (meaning us) on fashion is around US$1 trillion. Most of these profits can be attributed to the ‘fast fashion’ market. Just like ‘fast food’, ‘fast fashion’ targets the masses by selling large quantities of cheaply made and therefore low priced items. ‘Fast fashion’ tends to be marketed towards the younger consumers (teens to mid-twenties) who have less disposable income but are more interested in following fashion trends. Although most of the low cost clothing is made to a lower standard, generally the quality of the clothing is not important. The general life expectancy of an item of clothing is usually only one ‘fashion season’ (6 months) before new trends are pushed into the market (devaluing the last season) or before the quality of the garment has massively deteriorated.
This mentality towards continuous trend changing means we are consuming more resources than is rationally necessary.
For example; stores like Sports Girl, Supre, and General Pants (whose major source of labour is off shore in the developing countries where environmental regulations are less severe) support these ideals of mass consumption by continually changing trends, not every fashion season but every few months. This generates a huge amount of impact on an environmental level. On the most basic level, if we were to focus on just the issues with making general every day fabrics like cotton we would be looking at moderate environmental disaster in itself eg. each year one third of all insecticides used globally are used to make non-organic cotton.
Water pollution by insecticides when fibres are being harvested is only the first harmful element in the journey that your super sexy new Supre dress will encounter before getting to your wardrobe.
Detergents, chlorine bleach, dye, solvents, acids and thousands of litres of water are most likely all going to be pumped through the fabric before it even reaches the sweat shop to be cut and sewn on a mass scale into hundreds of identical pieces of clothing to be shipped thousands of kilometers to your local Westfield Shopping Centre.
Here are some quick points on the fabrics you will find in your wardrobe.
– To produce an average pair of jeans from cotton to denim takes about 1/3 of a kilogram of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.
– Every kilogram of cotton lint grown will take an average of 4268 litres of water to produce.
– Sheep hooves place massive stress on topsoil, which in Australia is already quite thin. This eventually will lead to a huge environmental drama as land will become infertile, uninhabitable- basically unusable for future generations.
– Heavy detergents are used in the processing of wool to remove natural blemishes.
– Wool does take less resources and energy to produce (in comparison to cotton) which is a positive.
Natural/ Semi Synthetic fibers:
– Fibre from plants are renewable and biodegradable. (ie bamboo, soy, algae, corn and nettle)
– However the process that semi synthetic fibres go through uses large amounts of solvents and sulfuric acid which is an enormous component in pollution.
– Synthetic fibres are not renewable in the long term because they are generally made from petroleum.
– They are obviously not biodegradable.
– On the plus side, synthetic fibres need less ironing so therefore over their life cycle will contribute (a tiny amount) less to your carbon footprint.
Why we should put a greater value on recycled clothing.
After digesting these very generalised and brief facts about part of the evils of the mainstream fashion industry I think my point on how awesome buying recycled clothing is, is pretty clear. Buying second hand and vintage clothing not only supports retailers/ organisations that indorse eco friendly shopping but also puts a greater value on environmentally sustainable clothing. You are not only reducing your own carbon foot print but you are sticking it to the man, and by the man I am referring to capitalism. You can look at it like the glass is half empty or half full. I’d prefer to support higher prices on vintage and second hand clothing because I think its a direct reflection on growing environmental awareness and popularity. But you can take the road less traveled like that dude from Frankie and get annoyed about it if you like