OUR PLANET UNDER PRESSURE
Updated: May 23, 2020
A population with increased spending power contributing to the rapid growth of fast fashion and its knock-on effect on our planet
Image: Poppy Trayner
In a recent survey conducted by PWC (2019), it was found that just over half of the world’s population- 3.8 billion, were classified as middle class. In turn, this has led to growing disposable income levels over recent generations, which has contributed to the saturated wardrobes in developed nations (Environmental costs of fast fashion, 2018).
Previously, society as a whole were less wasteful, with a culture which didn’t demand constant newness. Since the rise of fast fashion, the number of seasons per year have risen from 2 to as many as 52 micro seasons. In turn, this has led to a disposable nature among consumers, where they discard the item as soon as new trends appear, decreasing the longevity of the garment.
Current Fashion Consumer
“Fast fashion acknowledges the consumers insatiable demand for newness”
- Barnes & Lea-Greenwood, 2006, p.269
We live in a digital age, with nearly 1/3 of consumers buying products online weekly or more frequently. A survey conducted by PWC in 2019 revealed that the average person buys 60% more items of clothing today than they did 15 years ago, and keeps them for half as long. Britain alone, consumes clothes at the fastest rate within Europe; and it is estimated that by 2030, global apparel consumption will rise by 63% (Vogue, 2019). This will contribute further to the staggering £30 billion worth of unworn clothing hanging in British wardrobes currently (Waste & Resources Action Programme), alongside the ¾ of Britons who throw away unwanted clothing, rather than donating or recycling them.
Is producing more garments the only way to satisfy demand and create newness?
There has been a noticeable shift towards a growing awareness among society with regard to the impact we have on the environment. There have been several forces for change which have acted as catalysts in this movement, such as Greta Thunberg, extinction rebellion and many documentaries bringing it to the forefront of our attention. PWC’s consumer insights survey (2019) found that 35% of the respondents would choose sustainable products to help protect the environment.
Changing the mindset of the consumer - growing environmental awareness
There is evidence to suggest an appetite for change, moving towards more sustainable practices. This can be noticed in Cara David’s podcast on the fashion consumer (2019), where out of 8,000 respondents, 26% of millennials said that sustainability plays a role in their decision making. This is supported by Fashion Revolution’s Consumer Survey (Nov 18), which highlighted that the majority of people believe it is important for fashion brands to reduce their long-term impacts on the environment through addressing climate change (85%) and environmental protection (88%). In conjunction with this, it also found that 66% of respondents were interested in learning what fashion brands are doing to minimise their impact. Overall this shows a growing market for sustainable fashion and sustainable initiatives within fashion.