THE FAST FASHION EPIDEMIC / ANNA SUTHERLAND

Our guest blogger, Anna Sutherland of Urban Rustle, talks about the epidemic of fast fashion and the value of well-made pieces.

Set foot in any major fashion retail store, and you’ll notice how the newly released collections look uncannily like the most current catwalk trends.  Return two weeks later, and it’s highly likely the racks have been replaced with even newer pieces.  Oh, and those tops you looked at last time? They’ve been thrown into the sale bin, or worse, disposed of entirely if sales have proven particularly poor.  No, really, it happens.  This phenomenon whereby a fashion trend is snapped up and capitalised on, is ‘fast fashion’.  It’s a dirty one too.

Did you know the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on earth? To be frank, I had little knowledge about fashion’s social and environmental impact up until a few years ago.  I mean, it’s something the giant clothing retailers would probably prefer people didn’t know.  Clever marketing encourages us to focus on other things like their 2-for-1 sales and celebrity endorsements.

It saddens me that we now think throwing out clothes after a year of use, if that, is normal.  A recent survey by Barnardo’s Retail found that most clothes are worn, on average, only seven times before they’re ditched.  Seven times!

We’ve become so accustomed to constantly updating our wardrobes that we don’t think twice about ridding of it to make space for more new clothes.  We didn’t always used to be like this.

When I was in Tokyo’s fashionable Shibuya district, I decided to visit one of their most popular malls.  Though I had little intention of buying, I did want to experience first-hand what shopping in one of the world’s biggest fashion capitals could entail.  The first few minutes, I felt as though I were in a trance.  My eyes struggled to focus on any one item long enough before I became distracted by something else.  Eventually the glaring pink and yellow lights, high-pitched pop music, and the plastic smell that comes with synthetic textiles became all too much.  I left after a mere fifteen minutes.

It’s a world far removed from the struggles of everyday life in Japan after World War Two, says my grandmother.  “We lost almost everything.  There was hardly any money to buy food, let alone clothes.  What little clothing we did have, we cherished and mended ourselves.”

As a millennial, perhaps I’ll never be able to completely relate to my grandmother’s post-war experience.  Something I can take away from her story however is the importance of having gratitude for and cherishing what you do have. 

My desire to launch my own brand largely stemmed from my desire to put the love back in the consumer experience.  I wanted to create high quality, beautiful products the user can enjoy for years, not months.  I also wanted to break the myth that sustainable fashion is only for the affluent, which is why most of Urban Rustle’s pieces sit below the fifty dollar mark.

When you choose to buy sustainable or ethical fashion, you’re making the conscious decision to source clothes knowing that its manufacturing involved serious social and/or environmental considerations.  It’s great that we are talking more about sustainable fashion and #whomademyclothes has been trending on social media, but there’s still so much to do in order to shift attitudes. Let’s be real, there’s nothing fashionable about fast fashion.

Thank you, Anna, for sharing your perspective! You can follow Urban Rustle at @urbanrustle.