What has fast fashion given us? Let’s be honest here. It’s given us trends for every year, season, mid-season and more, it’s filled our shopping malls with shiny windows full of fashionable mannequins, it’s told us that we can feel happier by buying a little something for ourselves, and most of all - it’s filled some of our closets SO FULL that we have no idea what’s on the bottom half of the pile.
Fast fashion has given us many pretty things and made us feel like we can just update our wardrobe from scratch every year. In a way, it has given some democracy to the world of clothing and fashion by letting the lower income families (in the western world) dress like those people in glossy magazines. Or has it?
Well, by the powers invested in me, I hereby ask you to do the math in the cost of an average piece of clothing with me. I know you’re familiar with some of this already, but I feel like as your friend who’s really into sustainable fashion I have the responsibility to check up on you every now and then. I also know that you are not the problem here. You are not addicted to shopping and endless consuming of cheap fashion, but you might know someone who is. Do you? Maybe this is the spark that gets you talking about this to the people around you ;) Here we go!
By googling ‘t-shirt’, the cheapest ones (sold online at this moment) start from $1.57 (yes, what?!). Then there’s $3.83, then $4.90. You get the point - they’re... cheap. Usually the retailer takes 50-70% of the price, so we’re now at, let’s say $1.5. Then there’s shipping, handling and packaging, plus all the costs that the company pays for their own branding etc, so we can assume that a $4 shirt has had the manufacturing cost of about $1 OR LESS.
At this point I’d like to say that no company with production 100% in the USA (or Europe) could pull this off. For comparison, a yard of organic cotton knit (needed to make one t-shirt) made in the USA starts at about $7-8. Now add manufacturing costs with the kinds of numbers that actually are above minimum wage, and you’ll end up getting a sum that’s pretty far from that $1.
It also gets complicated from here on with the international trade with currency exchanges, different legal structures and different levels of human rights issues in the countries (for example in southeast Asia), where most of our clothes are made. And the longer the supply chain, the harder it is for anybody to know or supervise what’s really going on. It doesn’t sound that democratic anymore, does it?
Basically, if this shirt doesn’t have a Fair Trade or other similar certifications, it’s more than likely that the person actually making this shirt isn’t doing well at all and is being exploited by a number of people and entities.
Yes, it might be wonderful to ‘feel rich’ in the clothing store without thinking what the low prices mean. But is it fair to all the parties involved? Nope, no way, not at all. Unfortunately the ones paying the price of our cheap clothes are those people working on the sewing machines, and the nature that’s either providing the material or being used as a planet shaped landfill.
Ooh, I see I’m getting a little heated up about this! Are you?
On a lighter note, there are ABSOLUTELY ways to feel great about our clothing! We don’t have to support this fast fashion system that clearly isn’t sustainable in any level.
I believe one of the keys is something that money doesn’t have much to do with, and that’s finding our personal style. Not talking about a makeover -show type of adventure here, but just really knowing and paying attention to what we like and which type of clothing we actually feel comfortable (and gorgeous) in. It will not only save us from buying stuff we won’t ever wear and blowing our money in random shopping franzies, but it’ll also make us really appreciate and LOVE the clothes that we do own. I bet you have some beautiful treasures in that closet of yours, that are just waiting to be loved by your amazing body.
Basically, slowing down is the best remedy to the evil grip of the fast fashion. The longer we can wear a piece of clothing, the better. The better care we take of the clothing, the longer it will last.
So, the style guide for this year, and ALL of the years ahead, would be to take the time to get to know yourself and what makes you tick, clothing-wise. No more fast fashion accidents, no more guilt tripping the day after, no more messy closets filled to the brim. We can do it!
If you have any questions about the manufacturing process of our clothes, please don’t hesitate to message - I’d love to tell you all about it!
P.S. If you read this whole thing, and are interested in knowing more about the true cost of fast fashion, I'd highly recommend watching a documentary called The true cost. It’ll make you shaky, but also very educated. You can find it online and stream it, or get the DVD.
Lots of love and respect,