*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Ethical Network of San Antonio.
Right in the middle of peak spring, the retail fashion industry was suddenly put on pause. Retailers across the country closed for an undetermined amount of time and all shipment deliveries were cancelled indefinitely. Now, as the economy slowly re-opens, we finally have the chance to evaluate the challenges these companies face and more importantly, what to do with unsold product.
A big concern most retailers are facing is the mass amounts of stock on hand. Because collections are operated on a make-to-stock manufacturing process, thousands of units were already produced and prepared to ship months beforehand. The question they face now is what to do with all that mass-produced clothing? How much of it will become dead stock and how much of that will eventually end up in our landfills?
The fashion industry produces more clothing daily than any of us will ever wear. We are the cause of this problem because of our excessive consumption. Our impulse buying when it comes to sales is what the research fashion retailers base their manufacturing numbers on when they determine how much they expect to sell.
In the last ten years, clothing production has doubled. Fast fashion is being purchased more than ever because it is cheap. At the same, it is also being worn less and discarded faster than ever.
Sadly, this over-stock problem is not new. Before the pandemic, on average, 85% of all textiles end up in landfills every year. Many people are unaware of the fact that synthetic fabrics, like polyester and lycra, can take hundreds of years to decompose. And, as it decomposes, these discarded garments can emit methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas more potent than carbon.
Because we cannot immediately change how mass fashion is produced, the responsibility to force this change lies with the consumer. The coronavirus pandemic made us as evaluate what is essential to us. We were forced to rethink how we shop, what we shop for, where we shop, and what are the consequences of our purchases. This mindset is the most important shift we should continue to practice as we move into the new normal phase of our lives.
One way we can challenge mass-producing is by investing in better quality clothing. Quality clothing not only looks and feels better, it also lasts longer. A well-made garment can last up to twenty years, compared to lower quality garments which are only worn an average of five times before being thrown away.
Making this a regular investment will also help lower the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. Low cost productions usually create pollution problems, apply excessive use of toxic dyes on clothing, and often service cheap labor.
Regarding the clothing you no longer use, there are a few things you can do. If the clothing is in good condition, consider donating it to a thrift store or charity. Whether it is because of disasters or underprivilege, there will always be people in need of good, usable clothing.
Another opportunity is to sell your garments online on websites and apps made available just for that purpose. There is also the option of swapping on an online marketplace. This alternative includes trading an array of vintage and high-end designer pieces.
Upcycling old clothes can also help revive your outdated pieces. This can be a great opportunity to get creative. Garments can be remade into dresses, shorts, used as inserts for other clothing, and even turned into handbags.
Repairing old clothes with the help of a seamstress or tailor is also an opportunity that can extend the life of your clothing. It is cost effective and you can hold on to your favorite piece of clothing longer.
When we consider all our options, only then can we begin to make better decisions. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will all be forced to re-evaluate our lives and figure out what matters most to us. In moving forward, we should try to be more conscious about the companies we choose to purchase from.
Though it may take years to recover from all the damage we have already done to the environment, it should not deter us from making a change. Tremendous strides have been made to change the fashion retail industry already. Each year more companies implement sustainability practices into their manufacturing process. However, the ultimate change lies in you, the consumer, and the choices you make when you shop.
The amount of waste in products each year is excessive. The answer to that problem is simple. Shop less.
Veronica Rodriguez is a fashion designer, animal lover, and coffee enthusiast. Born and raised in San Antonio, she is best known to her peers as being highly organized and very opinionated. She is currently building her fashion brand on a foundation of ethical and sustainable practices by producing a clothing brand that is environmentally and ethically safe.