30 November 2020
On 1st December 2006 we were married in the Town Hall in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. As a native Bavarian, Rudi wore traditional costume, which included Lederhosen, a Charivari and a loden jacket. I also went for the traditional look and bought a Dirndl for the occasion.
The photo shows us wearing the same outfits 14 years later. We don them on special occasions and, of course, we brought them with us when we moved to Scotland. The clothes look grand, are of excellent quality and will serve us well for many years to come.
This is the epitome of slow fashion, in contrast to the increasingly expedient and unsustainable extraction, production, delivery, sale and disposal of clothing which has become known today as fast fashion.
In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than in any other European country and frighteningly, global apparel consumption is projected to rise from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons in 2030 – equivalent to more than 500 billion additional T-shirts. Yikes!
So what exactly is wrong with the modern clothing industry? Here are some of the problems:
- When we buy clothes made with synthetic fibres, such as polyester, acrylic and nylon, every time they’re washed they shed microplastics. These end up in the oceans and therefore in our food chain, which means that ultimately we are ingesting this plastic.
- Even natural fibres are not ideal – one kilogram of cotton, equivalent to the weight of a shirt and pair of jeans, can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce.
- Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally, and 20 per cent of all global wastewater comes from the fashion industry.
- When clothes are discarded, 87% goes to landfill or incineration, 12% is downcycled into lower value uses that are often extremely difficult to recirculate, and only 1% gets recycled into new clothing.
- Greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production are higher than the amount produced by all international flights and maritime shipping combined and, at the current rate, the textile industry is poised to account for over 26% of the global carbon budget by 2050.
- The fashion industry involves horrendously exploitative working conditions, mainly (but not only) in developing countries and mainly the forced labour of women and young girls.
More problems can be found in the sources at the end of this post, but one thing remains clear: Cheap clothes are cheap for a reason – it’s because someone (or something) else is paying for them.
What steps can you take now?
- Be mindful of your clothing purchases – where does the product come from? how much wear will you get from it? what will happen to it after you’re finished with it?
- Buy clothes secondhand. For special occasions think about renting clothes, unless you wish to make your purchase a long-term investment.
- Think about whether you need to buy new clothes at all – can you repair or repurpose what you already have? Appreciate and value your garments.