High street fashion’s dirty laundry

The devastating secrets behind mass clothing production.

As an expecting Mum, I really struggle sometimes to get my wardrobe to serve me in the way it used to. If you are lucky, in the first months of your pregnancy and your tummy doesn’t expand enormously, you may still be able to use some of your favourite clothes. The real struggle starts in the 3rd semester, when your body doesn’t look as it used to anymore and you still want to look and feel good.

At this stage it’s good to remind yourself that this is only temporary and you are not going to be pregnant forever. Changing a size doesn’t mean you need to compromise on your look and comfort, there is a solution to that – cheap, mass produce clothing!

Not long ago, I visited Primark and was absolutely amazed how cheap everything is. Lovely floral dress £5, buggy T-shirt -£ 2, flipflops – £1.5! I got so many lovely items to keep me going for the next two months for the fraction of money that I would normally spend. When I came back home and looked at my new newness addition again, it got me thinking, do I really need so many? what is hidden behind these low prices … T-shirts cheaper than cup of coffee , dresses cheaper than 1 kilo of berries …

Labour exploitation of poor children who doesn’t even know what the word ‘childhood’ means, slavery in modern world where factory workers are paid just under £50 per month in some of the Bangladeshi factories, poor condition of the workers where they are not allowed even to use the toilets or having breaks. The average shifts starts at 8am until 7pm.

Each of these items carry a story, not the one that you would like to happily listen to every day.

Most of us are aware of the impact that mass produced clothing has on poorer nations like Bangladeshi for instance, but in many cases we deliberately decide to ignore them or pretending that nothing can be done about it.

Are we really so powerless to make any changes

In whole fairness, it is us! Consumers who dictate the demand on high street, it is us who have started to treat clothes as disposable items which can be simply throw away or donated to charity shop. Our consumption appetite is sharpened more than ever for bargains, with an easy access on-line we tend to consume even more at comfort of our home. All the bargains are available simply at our fingertips.

What are the consequences? The fashion industry became the second polluted industry in the world.

The pressure to reduce cost and the time from the design to shopping shelves became more pressured than ever before. There are no longer 4 season collections as it used to be such as winter/ spring/ summer /autumn/ winter. We are talking now about 56 collections with new trends coming almost every week.

Vibrant colours, print finishes, designs have to be appealing enough for the modern consumer with an already saturated wardrobe. And that’s where the race begins, the retailers and heavy advertising tempt shoppers with constantly changing collections to convince them that the items they already have are no longer fashionable.

The consequences are devastating for the environment.

Mass clothing productions deprived many nations from drinkable water, polluted rivers poison poor nations who need to use water full of chemicals and toxins. The rivers no longer serve its inhabitants to provide life-giving water. Their function has been shifted to make use of water to produce cotton.

To make one pair of jeans it takes 14000 litre of water! That is equivalent of 24 years of drinkable water for one person !

Have a look at a short video to see the shocking truth what it does really means to buy clothes on high street.

Confronting High Street Shoppers with A Shocking Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates

The rich colours, prints, designs, all of these appealing features of fashion clothing carry with them a stigma of toxic chemicals. Their toxicity level is so hazardous that they are able to bio-accumulate in the human body causing hormones disruption and carcinogenic.

One of the most popular fabric used in fashion is polyester which is non-bio gradable material. The garments made of polyester shed microfibres when are washed in the washing machine which resulting in increasing level of plastic in the oceans. Every polyester fibres that was ever produced still exist in the planet! It’s not recyclable.

So what we can do about it?

  • First of all, be mindful of the staff that you buy. Before purchasing ask yourself if you are planning to wear this item 30 times? If not, don’t buy it, don’t treat clothing as disposable goods.
  • Secondly check the label – check if they have trade accreditation and research on the company, how much they paying their workers.
  • Don’t just throw away your clothes, donate them to the charity, someone may make a good use of them.
  • Instead of buying 10 items try to invest in one classic style item that will last you longer.

Share your ideas how we can stop the devastating effect of mass clothing on the environment. Leave your comment below

In the upcoming weeks I will publish an interview from one of the independent e-co friendly label who will show what does it take to produce truly eco clothes without polluting environment.

If you are interested in this subject and want to find out more, I encourage you to watch a full BBC documentary “Dirty Fashion secrets” by Stacey Dooley and the US documentary “The True Cost”.

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