I’m doing the fashion brief, here is the brief:
Branch out: A third (33%) of Gen Z feel stressed that they’ve spent more than they can afford when they buy new clothes. With low awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and people and the buying of clothes so closely linked to mood and happiness, how can you engage young people (Generation Z) in being more mindful clothes shoppers?
Dig Deeper for those that don’t like broad briefs: We’re living in a material world – yet 28% of Gen Z don’t care what fabric an item is made from as long as it’s fashionable. One cotton t-shirt uses 2700 litres of water to make and synthetic clothes are made using natural resources like oil, in the same way we make plastic. How can you encourage 16-24 year olds to care to choose better quality clothes e.g. organic cotton over normal cotton or recycled polyester over virgin polyester?
What is fast fashion? It is a manufacturing approach that emphasizes making clothes quickly and cheaply, usually in response to the latest fashion trend.
The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, second only to oil. Here are some facts:
- 300 000 tonnes of clothing went to landfill in the UK in 2016 (Waste and Resources Action Programme).
- In 2000, there were only two collections per year.
- In 2011, there are five collections with clothing chains such as H&M sometimes offering 52 micro-seasons per year.
- Over 80 billion articles of clothing are bought each year in the world, which is 400% more than two decades ago.
- In the last 15 years, clothing production and consumption have doubled.
This contributes to about 5% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to those emitted by the worldwide aviation industry or the country of Russia.
The manufacturing process is also at fault as greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, are released into the atmosphere. These gases are produced on a scale to create over 80 billion articles of clothing each year. That’s without talking about the amount of water it uses, plastic use, dyes and the non-ethical treatment of its’ workers.
Bodies of water have dried up, such as the Aral Sea, because of the fashion industry. It takes 2700 litres of water to make a single cotton t-shirt. Additionally, a lot of water is also required to dye and manufacture textiles, with up to 200 tons of water needed to produce a ton of dyed fabric.
The factories release water into the country’s rivers and water. This can be extremely toxic as it contains pollutants like lead, mercury and arsenic among others. This can lead to a degradation of aquatic life and the pollution of the inhabitants drinking water.
As for the enormous amounts of clothes that get sent to the landfill each year (a staggering 84% in the USA), it takes years to decompose. Years as in half a life for Nylon and 200 years for Polyester. It gets worse when one knows that as they decompose, they release microplastics in the soil, thus polluting the nearby area.
- 70 million barrels of oil are used to make polyester each year.
- Washing a 13-pound load of plastic-based clothes releases 700 000 plastic fibres into the environment.
- Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water, after agriculture.
- Cotton, one of the most widely used fabrics, requires high levels of water and pesticides to prevent crop failure.
The carbon footprint produced by the farming and manufacturing of the textile, by the construction and shipping of the garments, its’ use and disposal is colossal.
Despite a long-established national network of charity shops and increasing numbers of in-store recycling points in UK high-street stores, three-quarters of Britons throw away unwanted clothing, rather than donating or recycling it.
- The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html
First, there’s water consumption. 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced every year, and a typical pair takes 7,000 litres of water to produce. For a t-shirt, it takes 2 700 litres of water to make just one – that’s the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days!
- Greenpeace, https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/7539/fast-fashion-is-drowning-the-world-we-need-a-fashion-revolution/
Surveys show that around 37% of young people aged 16-24 would be too embarrassed to wear an outfit they’ve already worn before to a special occasion. 17% wouldn’t wear it again if it had been shared on social media. This is mostly linked to influencers and stars promoting that kind of lifestyle and endorsing fast fashion brands. (https://moralfibres.co.uk/can-generation-z-put-the-brakes-on-fast-fashion/)
I didn’t understand why the brief targeted generation Z. We pride ourselves in being aware, whether it be politics, social issues or environmental issues. A lot of us have precise and thought-through opinions. Some even take action. The previous generation was aware of global warming, but we grew up fighting it. So why don’t we apply that to fashion? There’s this paradox that I couldn’t wrap my head around. As someone that stopped shopping in retail a long time ago but also never really had the desire and money to buy something every other day, I don’t understand how someone could be so blissfully ignorant as to do that. Until an article pointed out that when a house and vacations are off the table, you buy a 20£ dress as a pick me up. That makes a whole lot of sense.
I think the most obvious and effective solution is to harness the desire to do well and change things for the better already present within this age group. After all, one of the main problems is misinformation. Out of sight, out of mind. Despite making us poorer, we’ve become addicted to those small instantaneous pick me ups that make us feel good about ourselves. Buying, consciously or unconsciously, tricks us into believing that we are in a position to do so, this comes with a false feeling of security and power.
However, it’s quite delicate for the reasons mentioned above. No matter how superfluous it seems, I get the feeling that this generation needs those in a certain way. Until they have better options or other ways to obtain the same feelings and results, making them change their habits is an arduous task.