How many times do you think you wear your clothes? Remember that number.
Now consider this. If you were to wear a piece of clothing only once every week, it would take you over 7 months to wear it 30 times.
Now, consider the number of your items in your wardrobe. How many clothes in your wardrobe do you wear once every week?
Now ask yourself again. How many times do you wear your clothes?
Livia Firth, eco-fashion activist and wife of well-known actor Colin Firth, has launched an attack on throwaway fashion by imploring women to ask themselves “Will I wear this 30 times?” The campaign is based on the realisation that most of us now, especially women, buy on impulse and we don’t really care about what we buy.
Fast fashion rules us.
So often, we look at price tags and think to ourselves “Even if I wear this only a few times, it is worth the price”. The abundance of fast-fashion brands means styles go out of fashion in a matter of weeks and clothes are cheap enough to afford only one wear before they are discarded. There are about two mini seasons a week in stores! An average woman in the West discards a piece of clothing in a mere 5 weeks.
Fast fashion is always falling apart, must be continuously replaced and rarely lasts because the focus is on cost over quality. When factories are forced to churn out items quickly, it reflects in the quality of construction. Most clothing is still made by hand and the price is largely tied to the wages paid to produce it.
Every year, across the world, 1.5 billion garments are sewn by approx. 40 million people working in 250,000 factories. These are predominantly made in countries described by the UN as the world’s least developed. Many factories are known to jeopardise the health and dignity of garment workers in return for very low minimum wages and the promise of upliftment from poverty.
As consumers, it is easy to get swept up by the idea of cheap clothing lines that allow us to have larger wardrobes, more colours, more styles for the same price. But the cost of cheap apparel adds up in our waste management crisis.
According to the Council for Textile Recycling, Americans throw away 85% of the clothes they purchase. The average annual shopping budget is $1700. This means that $1445 worth of clothing needs to be replaced with new clothing every year.
Moreover, all that discarded clothing needs to be managed as ‘textile waste’.
Counterstrike. Slow it down.
After tragedies in Bangladesh garment factories that supplied stores with cheap, trendy clothing raised concerns over the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion, Livia Firth and other activists were inspired to start countermovements that emphasise quality and sustainability over cost.
Advocates of ‘slowing down’ fashion say that shopping ethically can also be budget friendly because well-made clothing will have lower cost-per-wear over time. If a $10 shirt is worn 5 times, the cost per wear is $2. A $35 shirt worn 30 times, is a better deal at $1.17 per wear!
Livia Firth uses designers to lead the way to provide examples of how you can re-engage women with the clothes they wear. In September 2015, she unveiled a collection of 12 pieces made entirely with reused, surplus or sustainable certified materials.
She recalls, “When I grew up, fast fashion didn’t exist and so, when I bought things, I never had money. I saved for a year to buy a coat. I’d save for a month to buy a dress. Everything had a memory, a purpose. I filled my wardrobe in time and I still have those clothes.”
Many of us will remember a time when we saved up for the things we really wanted, we bought things because we valued them, because they were good quality that came at a cost. Many of us still have pieces from our mother’s or grandmother’s wardrobe and we guard them closely for the number of times they have been worn by different people along the years.
If this has inspired you to take on the #30wears challenge, here is a buyer’s checklist:
– Is this a high quality piece?
– Will it last 30 washes?
– In how many ways can I use this garment (team it with other outfits or accessories) to get variety?
– Will I still want to wear it in a year?
#30wears is not about stopping clothes shopping, that many of us get so much pleasure in. It is about taking pleasure in buying responsibly and using responsibly. It is about getting the ‘maximum mileage’ from the clothes we own!
“Every time we buy it we make a vote”, says Firth. “If we buy, we say it is OK to buy this. So, let’s start using this vote in a good way”