According to the UN Environmental Programme and Rashmila Maiti at Earth.Org the fast fashion industry is responsible for almost 10% of global emissions – “more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined”.
The term fast fashion refers to "cheaply produced and priced garments that copy the latest catwalk styles and get pumped quickly through stores in order to maximise on current trends" (Maiti, 2022).
According to Owen Mulher from Earth.Org clothing sales have doubled from 100 to 200 billion units a year, while the average number of times an item was worn decreased by 36%. Fast fashion leads to many environmental and social issues:
85% of all textiles get dumped each year and even washing clothes releases 500 000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year (the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles). (Business Insider, 2019)
Luckily as there is a rise in care and awareness of these issues and the encroaching climate crisis more and more people are becoming aware of the impacts made by their purchasing habits.
82% of Canadians took part in the second-hand economy in 2018 which includes buying, selling, donating or swapping and that number is on the rise. 86% of BC-ers participate in the second hand economy, making B.C. the leading province in Canada to participate in the second-hand economy. (Vancouver Sun, 2019)
Social media influencers are also promoting thrifting and second hand consumption which is starting to influence younger generations. In a poll one of The Wilder team carried out on Instagram of 100 people, 61% voted that they prefer second hand (thrifted, vintage, etc.) and 39% preferred new (fast fashion, designer, etc.). Of the 61% who voted for second hand the majority of those lived in B.C. or other parts of Canada. Reasons for buying second hand varied from affordable to more sustainable but an interesting piece of feedback from voters was the habitual part of thrifting as something that was taught to them by their parents or communities.
One person said “I’ve been wearing thrifted or hand-me-downs since I was a baby so it’s what I know” and another said “my grandmother used to thrift with me which was always a lot of fun”.
Interestingly, many who voted for new clothing wanted to participate in the second-hand market but could not due to lack of size representation and lack of accessibility to thrift shops in many cities where the industry has not yet been introduced.
How can brands and consumers continue to practice sustainability through fashion?
Vancouver has a wide selection and variety of vintage, thrifted clothing and second hand products that are affordable which explains the rise in second hand shopping. There are also great opportunities for innovations. Companies like Poshmark and DePop are innovating second hand shopping to compete with fast fashion retailers to sell used clothes online delivered to consumers' doors. Established brands like Urban Outfitters are branching out to include vintage sections on their online platforms and in stores to include recycled and refurbished clothing. Some brands are even beginning to practice a circular system where clothing is returned after use and remade into something else or resold at a lower price, or offer repair programs so that the clothing can continue to be used. And others, like FabCycle and Our Social Fabric in Vancouver collect unused fabric to resell and keep it out of landfills.
Some nifty ideas for consumers:
More companies are popping up that offer shoppers the ability to rent clothes that are returned and reused. Do some research on what is available around you. There could be a viable alternative to buying that occasion dress that's only going to be worn once.
Organize a clothing swap with your friends or community! This way people get rid of clothes that may no longer suit them in exchange for clothes that do. It's also a great way to get to know your community! Checking out clothing swaps at your school, workplace or even local events is also a way to join in. The Wilder are hosting a clothing swap at our upcoming fair, In the Wild Woods, come check it out!
Upcycle your clothing by making things like makeup remover pads (from cotton shirts), a tent for your kids, tote bags, reusable produce or shopping bags, pillowcases, headbands (from stretchy material), and reusable rags for cleaning. These are easy ways to extend the use of your clothes and make sure they don't end up in landfills. The Wilder recently made our public art installation Eulogy from almost entirely upcycled products including old fishing nets and hotel sheets made into streamers.