Is this the answer to slowing down fast fashion?
It’s a scary time to be alive, isn’t it? Daily headlines highlighting the environmental crises’ that are ensuing, all caused by us - humans. Check your favourite news publication right now - I’d be surprised to hear if there weren’t multiple articles discussing climate change, ocean plastics, pollution, deforestation, or ultimately the impending end of the world.
Honestly, it's a sad realisation to be faced with and for many pretty overwhelming. When it appears the damage has already been done, how can we possibly, as individuals, do anything to make a difference? Purchasing power - a business buzzword that carries a weighty truth. When you spend money, you are casting a vote towards what you do or don’t support. As individuals, we may not have the power to solve all of the worlds greatest problems, but we each have the power to decide where we cast out vote.
My morning routine has become a series of eco-conscious notions, each sleepy action loaded with the ability to depict the future of our planet. From the breakfast I eat, to the clothes I wear to work, the method of transport I take and of course my en route morning coffee from my favourite independent, served with coconut milk in my stojo.
Every buyer-choice I make is a close call to save or destroy; a tree, an animal, the ozone layer. Yet with each lifestyle change, buying choice or sustainable option, the feeling of failure soon descends. I replace my beef burger with a tasty vegetarian quinoa patty, only to read how quinoa is in fact really bad for the environment. I meticulously separate my food waste from my plastic, to discover its more likely to be sent abroad to landfill than recycled. And, what about the clothes recently purchased from H&M’s sustainable range? Or my laptop bag from vegan designer Matt & Natt?
Consumer trust is at an all time low, we are no longer fooled by big billboard claims - we want transparency, access to hard facts and clear insights into both ethical and sustainable practices from concept to creation. Reassuringly, we are more and more frequently seeing the media expose brands for their misleading marketing campaigns that exaggerate eco-credentials, proving [hopefully] the days of greenwashing are short numbered.
The impact of fast fashion has become a particular area of concern for me. Having found that one of the hardest areas to gain clarity on is how, where and who made my clothes - it is clear the industry is clouded by severe transparency issues.
Some hard facts about fast fashion
- Nearly 20% of global wastewater is produced by the fashion industry (United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashions)
- 20% of global production waste comes from the textile and apparel sectors (Close the Loop)
- Approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill each year in the UK (The Times), and it is estimated that the amount of clothing that goes to landfill each year is worth £140 million (WRAP)
- Less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
It’s pretty bleak. What’s worse is that these numbers are solely looking at the environmental impact of fashion, not even touching on the vast array of social implications affecting millions globally.
Now, this was meant to be where I offered up a handful of sustainable brands doing great things, which indeed they are, but instead I am going to follow suit from likes of Venetia Falconer and tell you this…
Consumers in the UK alone have $4.6 billion worth of unworn clothes in their wardrobes. Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing is ending up in household bins every year with around 80% incinerated and 20% sent to landfill. Which leads me to say - undoubtedly, the number one best buyer choice you can make right now - is either rent or buy second hand.
The Rise of Second Hand Fashion
In the UK, the average lifespan for a piece of clothing is only 2.2 years. Extending this lifespan by just nine months can go a long way to reducing it’s environmental impact. A great side-effect of the second hand clothing market is that it does just that. By keeping used clothing in play, it extends lifespan and reduces the number of garments that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
With the rise of conscious consumerism, the impact of secondhand clothing hasn’t been overlooked. The industry is booming, growing 21x faster than the retail apparel market over the past three years. And it’s not slowing down. Over the next five years, the secondhand clothes market is on track to be a $51bn industry.
You may have heard of companies such as Depop, Hurr or Vestiaire; some of the many brands that are carving the future of resale and rental clothing. However, there is one garment that they can’t touch: underwear.
The UK underwear market is a £5.8bn industry and it isn’t feeling the pressure from the growing secondhand retail market. For obvious reasons, underwear cannot be resold or donated and few people know how to properly recycle it.
So, where does all our used underwear end up? Landfill.
Introducing Pantee: Conscious underwear for you and the planet
PANTEE is a conscious intimates brand giving dead and rejected stock a new lease of life by upcycling t-shirts destined for landfill into comfortable and stylish lingerie. Designed by women, for women & the planet.
Transparency is at the heart of what we are setting out to do. We believe that when you buy clothes you should be able to easily find out where they are made, who made them, and the environmental impact they have.
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