Fast-fashion industry is wrecking economy, environment, says author
Published Thursday, August 9, 2012 3:42PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 10, 2012 7:15AM EDT
In today’s cash-strapped economy, dirt-cheap chic has become the new fashion standard for consumers around the world. But their passion for low-cost fashion could be hurting consumers more than they realize.
In her new book, “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” author Elizabeth Cline unwraps society’s current obsession for buying clothes on the cheap.
It’s an obsession that Cline knows all too well.
“I was the typical consumer. I was buying a lot of clothing a year, and I got to the point where I didn’t want to buy anything more than $20 or $30 a pop,” Cline told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
Each year the average person in the United States will add 68 new garments, as well as seven pairs of shoes to their wardrobe, according to Cline. American consumers spend approximately $1,100 per year to update their clothes and accessories.
Those stats have not been ignored by low-priced retailers such as H&M and Target, which churn out trendy, runway-inspired fashions at dirt-cheap prices to appeal to consumers.
But it’s that cycle which is wrecking the economy, the environment and our souls, according to Cline.
“In a matter of a generation, clothing went from something that was very personal…and kept forever to something that’s essentially a disposable good,” said Cline.
“Today a lot of consumers are buying clothes that they either don’t wear or are very underutilized. But I think it’s all about stopping and saying ‘Do I need this?’” she said.
Cline spent three years researching her book, and went undercover in China and Bangladesh. These are just two if the low-wage parts of the world where North American clothing manufacturers have outsourced business in recent years.
Cline also delivers some eco-friendly shopping strategies that can help North Americans curb their urge to splurge on clothes made overseas.
“I think it’s important to shop locally,” said Cline.
“Even if there’s no local garment industry in your city, look for clothes that are made under fair trade and living wage principles,” she said.
With this simple strategy, consumers can help elevate the labour costs in other parts of the world. That, in turn, will help North American clothing manufacturers stay competitive, Cline said.
Cline also recommended consumers pare down on their shopping and go for quality rather than quantity.
“Instead of buying dozens and dozens of clothes per year buy one item a month,” said Cline.
“It’s all about owning something that’s going to last. If you take this approach to shopping you can actually buy better-made items and something that you are going to wear,” she said.
Taking time to make alterations is another recommendation, and one that can save consumers money simply by investing a few minutes of their time.
Finally, consumers should research designers before they buy them.