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Fast Fashion Fat Profits

Fast Fashion: Implications of our thirst for new clothes

Fast fashion is a relatively new name for an industry that over the past 15 years has transformed our relationships to clothes. Gone are the times when clothing was an investment, where “back to school” meant saving up for a few weeks. Gone are the purchases that would last us a decade or two. Clothes today are cheaper, more available and way more abundant.

You can see it in the sobering numbers from the fashion revolution:

The ethical issues have been repeated for decades – since sweatshops became the protest issue in the 90s – to H & M fighting the negative publicity of garment workers in terribly dangerous factories  – to the underpaid and underage children we know are producing these clothes today.

But fast fashion is still  growing. Check out Last Week Tonight with John Oliver discussing the issue in USA.

We know the ethics of cheap clothes are not being solved. But we also love a good bargain.

So what did we do about it?

STEPS tried to encourage people to step outside the traditions of new fashion by organising a clothes swap. You can check out the event on facebook here.

Over the course of two weeks we took in donated clothing from people living in Uppsala, and then organised an open event for people to come along and take clothes for free. We figured that trading was a good way for people to get something new, while getting rid of unused clothes. It quenched the thirst for changing your style, increased the life of a piece of clothing (it wasn’t left hanging in a closet somewhere), and encouraged people to think about the implications of the global clothing industry.

But of course, this isn’t enough. When  75 million people on the planet work in the textiles industry, there is obviously still a huge demand. When the waste from clothing is thirty empire state buildings in one country alone, we are obviously not thinking big enough.

What can you do about it?

Firstly, do you really need that new top? It might only be 5 euros/ 5 quid, 50 kronor. It might be super cute and fashionable. Will it last? How many of these cute tops will you buy over the course of the year – because the last one got misshapen/ stained/ ripped? Buying one item with better quality, even if it might be a hell of a lot more expensive, is a great first step to opt out of fast fashion.

But you can also think outside the box. Organise clothing swaps with your friends and family. Buy second hand, either from charity stores or from tradera and other online trading websites.

Or you can go even further, why not develop your own skills? Learn how to reuse your old clothes by using the fabric to make new. These skills, common for our grandparents’ generation, are getting rare. These skills can save you money, can reduce waste, and reduce the stress of garment workers around the world.

Shameless STEPS plug: We have an event coming up where you can learn these skills and practise making fabric items with a group of interested people.

Recycle and Reject: How to reuse household textiles

Get involved!

Finally, we don’t have all the answers. STEPS is all about finding ways for normal people to do something about huge global issues. But we don’t know if there is an easy solution. We had a show on this issue a couple of weeks ago, but our discussion could only go so far. You can check out the podcast here. But in the mean time, if you have any more ideas we’d love to hear from you.


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