Aubrey Pedersen is our Product Designer and Sustainability Manager, and she has an idea—let’s combat fast fashion with making durable, longer lasting products. In this article, she lays out her argument for the importance of making less and making better.
This much we know to be true—if overproduction is the problem, then producing more durable, better made products has to be part of the solution.
According to a study in 2015, the fashion industry churns out 100 billion pieces of clothing for 7 billion people (1). In the US alone, this means that in the past twenty years, nearly double the amount (2) of clothing has been consumed. This paradigm shift towards faster turnaround and cheaper product (enter: what we call fast fashion) has come with serious consequences, inciting clothing to be produced quickly and cheaply at nearly any cost to laborers and the environment. The demand has lead to destructive consumer behaviors and expectations too. As a society we’re constantly buying while viewing our clothes and footwear as disposable—a dangerous perspective for both our planet and wallet.
Looking back at our history, Americans in the 1960’s bought fewer than 25 pieces of clothing a year, now on average we buy 70 pieces(3).
The root of this shift began with the mechanization of textiles and production in the 19th century, and has increased ever since; going hand-in-hand with inexpensive overseas production, as well as new business models that allowed for clothing to be produced quickly and cheaply. To get there too, manufacturing this way has often meant commonplace practices of long hours and minimal breaks, wages below living standards and the rise of sweatshops and child labor.
In addition to awareness of how fast fashion is affecting the environment and the fashion industry at large, we have to rethink our wardrobes and become comfortable with owning a few, high-quality, ethically-made pieces rather than a closet stuffed full of cheap clothing.
This makes durability and sustainability inextricably linked. Manufacturing a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes that can withstand normal wear and tear, while lasting longer than one season is a great start in understanding how we can break the cycle of fast fashion and over consumption. We invariably need a holistic approach to solve these issues involved in every aspect of the industry. But just to start, I would argue that the industry as a whole needs to return to a time when products were well designed and made to last. If a product is durable, it is inherently more sustainable because it’s life cycle is quite literally… sustained.
The longer products are loved, worn and treasured—the less go into a landfill. Beyond that and perhaps most importantly, buying a more durable item results in a garment that has a greater emotional value and a longer wearable life. Simply put, we won’t need to buy as much. Purchasing better made products is always going to be a win-win for both the environment and for you. We challenge everyone to ask themselves … Is [fast fashion] really worth it?
Want to chat further with Aubrey about sustainability, durability or anything in between? Send her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!