The Paris Fashion Week ended on October 5 with a Louis Vuitton show. A climate activist broke into the show with a sign saying “overconsumption = extinction.” She was wrestled to the ground by guards dressed in all black. Even though the show was just slightly disturbed and the models walking down remained uninterrupted, this needs to be talked about. There have been conversations around overconsumption and sustainability in fashion, but right now it is at its worst with brands like SHEIN and Urbanic being in their prime. In 2020, SHEIN had 10 billion sales rising from 4.5 billion sales in 2019. So, what do sustainability and overconsumption mean? Sustainability was first described in 1972 by EF Schumacher “Nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities.” however sustainability has a lot greater than simply a monetary aspect. Mainly it includes 3 aspects: economy, society and the environment”. Here I am mainly going to try and discuss all of society and the environment.
So, how grave is the situation? 1 cotton t-shirt takes 2700 litres of water and in one year over 2 billion cotton t-shirts are produced. This is simply ONE instance to offer you a difficult concept, there are masses of billions of apparel objects produced each year. Therefore, currently, fashion is the second biggest polluter after oil and gas and contributes to 10% of global greenhouse emissions. The major reason is fast fashion which further leads to overconsumption.
Ideally, producing fashion items may take at most 21 months including designing, sourcing, manufacturing then finally distributing. Therefore, maximum manufacturers produce big quantities of garments instances a year, which are then displayed on the runway. In H&M, as opposed to 2 seasons, they have got fifty-two seasons, with the concept that a big quantity of garments is produced each week. The clothing item that takes high fashion brands at least 6 months to produce, SHEIN produces it in 3 days. Brands like SHEIN, H&M and Zara are pretty useful for the ones who can not afford high fashion brands however those purchasers aren’t those feeding those manufacturers their growth, it’s those who purchase from them in bulks. Society and social media play a big element withinside the question “why overconsumption”.
When I talk about society in fashion, there’s a huge range from high fashion designers to the privileged influencers to the exploited workers working 14 hours a day. Trend cycles used to last 20-30 years in the 20th and 21st century but in the 22nd-century trend cycles usually last 2-3 months. A trend is composed 5 levels the introduction, the rise, the culmination, the decline then finally the obsolescence but with the rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels including fashion hauls, styling challenges and much more, the trend cycle simply consists of 3 stages, the introduction, the rise then the obsolescence. Social media creates a taboo for “repeating clothes” and specifically whilst you are a fashion influencer, you need to live updated with developments in trends and purchase a huge quantity of apparel often when trends last just for a month or two. Also, to keep creating content where you can’t repeat the clothes you wore once and post on your socials. When you need to continuously purchase a big quantity of apparel, you may be searching out the maximum reasonably-priced choice for yourself and that’s fast fashion brands.
But how are thousands of clothing items produced in a week? There are garment workers in emerging countries like Bangladesh, India and China working 14-16 hours 7 days a week. They have to breathe toxic substances and inhale fibre dust and are usually paid minimum wage. They are working 5 times the money they are paid. When they are unable to meet the deadlines caused by overconsumption, they are victims of abuse, women usually face gender-based violence. Many people in these emerging countries are victims of forced labour, again to meet deadlines. Most consumers don’t realize the effects of every single purchase. Fashion reaches beyond the boundaries of individual companies and supply chains and each purchase influences thousands of people and the environment.