Once upon a time, all we had to worry about were the two fashion seasons. Today, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons are about as relevant to contemporary life as Ed Hardy. Instead, we keep up with a busy calendar of just about fifty fashion ‘micro-seasons’, deliberately set up for us to constantly feel off-trend once we have worn our new pair of boots twice. Now, we all, myself included, have closets full of ‘small investments’ we felt the need to buy to keep up with the ‘Get the Look’ suggestions in the glossy fashion magazines. But that chained t-shirt and those designer lookalikes are now embarrassingly hidden in the back of our closets, stuffed to the point where the door no longer closes.
Author of To Die For, Lucy Siegle estimates that we wear 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time, leaving the rest of the clothes to be worn for singular occasions. And according to Elizabeth Cline in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, today’s fashion is built on a business model of low quality and high volume, designed for us to keep consuming fashion. Fashion retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop have designers creating new looks ad styles on a daily basis.
Clothes are therefore designed to fall apart after, if not the first wash, the second. Most clothing today is made up with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers that do not only break, but tear too easily in my opinion. “Zara has 200 designers come up with 40,000 designs each year, of which 12,000 are actually produced,” said Siegel in a comment for the Guardian. Imagine the total number of retailer designs! However, we ignorantly forget this and go on a shopping spree only a day after throwing three pairs of ripped trousers in the bin. On average, we purchase 28kg of clothes and shoes every year. This adds up to 1.72m tonnes of clothing being consumed each year, solely in the UK. Worst of all, just about the same quantity ends up in the trash. And the average American throws away over 68 pounds of clothing each year.
But why should we care? Why should we think twice before purchasing the newest trending polyester cop top? We should care because that specific piece of fashion made of synthetic, petroleum-based fibers that we throw away after the first use will take decades to decompose. And in the meantime while the temporarily trendy t-shirt is decomposing we buy five new t-shirts to make up for the one we trashed.
So think about it this way, if you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time, those weekly fashion fixes aren’t really pulling their weight. You are much better off investing a bit of money in a good quality mini dress that you will want to take better care of and use more often to make up for the cost. Becoming a more conscious consumer, make fashion count rather than making it so expendable it turns into litter after its first wear.