Tired of fast fashion? 5 ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable

I really was not conscious of Fast fashion before I started Zay, but it exploded into my world when I attended my first Gift fair and saw the vast number of products on offer and found Zay in the center of it! The bags were so popular and there was huge interest – far more than I had anticipated, it was exciting and giddy times. But as I was smiling in pure joy, an experienced veteran retailer thought she better put my feet back on the ground and told me how I was the new thing, to move as much product as quickly as I could, people would fall out of interest, probably just before someone copied me and flooded the market.

My stomach dropped and I got it in that moment, I was belle of the ball because I had the new exciting thing, this was not going to last. This was not going to work for me, as Zay’s goal was not to move as many bags as quickly as possible but was to provide incomes that give independence and the power of choices to the weaver. The excitement and joy I was feeling was because I felt the possibility of that in these first early steps.

The bags are handmade, they take a long time to be ready for market as they are made in women’s homes which logistically for a business can be extremely daunting in terms of transportation, storage and quality control. Also, they make them in their own time between domestic and farming duties so delays can be the norm rather than the exception. Be forgiving to little businesses like ours!

There is no doubt there is a thirst for the ‘next best thing’ every day in our consumer driven lives. The phrase ‘fast fashion’ is something that there is now a growing awareness about. It refers to clothing manufactured at warp speed and sold at a low price point. Worldwide the average consumer brought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000 but kept them half as long, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. This is an accelerating trend.

Fast fashion has a negative impact on the:

  • Environment

 According to the United nations Environment program, 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the clothing industry and responsible for a large portion of water pollution worldwide and uses copious chemicals. One terrifying fact is that of the clothes produced approximately 20 percent are never purchased and find their way to landfills. Rapidly made garments are not made to last and quickly start deteriorate after a few washes

  • People

 Fast fashion’s low price-points often rely on cheap labour in developing nations. Working conditions are grim at best and at worst inhumane. Fashion is an industry that has depended on the toils of the powerless and voiceless people (mostly women) around the globe. For many, the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh which killed more than 1100 and injured more has become a symbol of how bad things have gotten.

 Photo from The Independent

There is however a real movement to see change. The Rana Plaza tragedy mobilized the launch of Fashion Revolution, a non-profit organization which calls on consumer to demand fairer and a more transparent industry.  On their website they quote “Since Fashion Revolution began, people from all over the world have used their voice and their power to demand change from the fashion industry. And it’s working. The industry is starting to listen,” Fashion Revolutions states on it’s website  https://www.fashionrevolution.org/oceania/new-zealand/

Real change can come through thinking about where you are spending your money- it really makes a difference.

Five ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

  1. Become aware of it, once you are you see it everywhere! There are great blogs, newspaper articles about fast fashion, and the true negative impact it is having on the world. Great long reads are Fashionopolis: The Price of fast fashion and the future of clothes by Dana Thomas and Overdressed: the shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline, and the documentary by journalist Lucy Siegle The True Cost.
  2. Ask yourself before buying would I want to use or wear this in 1 years’ time.
  3. Buy goods from ethical businesses that are demonstrating the ways they care for the environment and the people involved in their business.
  4. Buy secondhand, handmade and recycled items.
  5. I understand how hard it can be to buy the higher quality, made to last items as they seem so much more expensive, but these can give joy for many seasons before being passed on, rather than a bunch of seemingly cheaper items that end up in landfill.
 Zay worked closely with this family to get bags ready for a foreign market.