Wasteful Fashion

Karl Lagerfeld. Most of you unlike me, probably know who he was, how popular he was and what he did for a living. But me, as oblivious as I am to all this kind of stuff, didn’t know who he was until he died last week.

So for those of you who are as clueless as I was until I got researching, here’s a brief. Karl Otto Lagerfeld was a German who was the Creative Director / Fashion Designer for the French fashion house Chanel and also for the Italian fur and fashion goods fashion house Fendi. (Those of you who know more than me, forgive me if I am wrong as I get my info from the world famous Wiki). He was called the ’emperor of fashion’ and was known for his ground breaking designs. He was the one to revive Chanel after the death of its designer Coco Chanel.

Karl Lagerfeld created out of the box haute couture designs that became instantaneously famous and were bought for thousands of dollars. These are obviously bought by rich celebrities. His designs were then copied by high street fashion brands to fulfill the desires of the commoners.

So, let me get to the point here. Why today am I writing about Karl Lagerfeld?

As I drove back home last week and had the BBC Radio on, this was the top news. Karl had died and the whole world was mourning for him. The fashion industry was devastated at the loss of such an iconic man. Fashion students all over the world were interviewed and most students who had never seen him or met him nearly wept at his loss.

As soon as the thought had crossed my mind, BBC put it out there live on their show.

I began to think…what do celebrities do of the clothes that they have bought for thousands of dollars? They mostly wear it just once and then what happens to them? They either rot in their closets or go to waste, right? Just as I thought this, an activist came on air BBC and started on this topic. The following information is based on what I heard and what I researched thereafter.

1. Most fashion houses destroy their unsold clothes, accessories and perfumes rather than selling it at a cheaper price, just to maintain their brand value. It is an open secret and apparently this is done in secrecy and hence it becomes difficult to quantify the immense scale of the problem. The effects of such actions are catastrophic on the environment. Every second a truck load of clothing is land filled or burnt.

2. Research suggests that clothing production around the world has doubled over the years and is now much less worn and discarded quicker than ever before. Less than 1% of the material that is used to make the clothing is recycled to make new clothing. After the oil industry, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world.

3. While fashion houses do submit reports on workers rights, water management etc. they need to work a lot on making their production eco-friendly. The clothing industry releases half a million tonnes of microfibers into the oceans each year and that’s equal to 50 billion plastic bottles. Apart from that, the fashion industry alone releases 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

4. It supposedly takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. So, next time we throw away that old T and jeans, we need to think more than just twice. Research shows that 85% of the daily water needs of the entire population of India can be covered by the water that they use to grow cotton in their country. Also, 15% of the fabric is wasted in the cutting room itself before the final product is made. These wastes have been tolerated by our environment for decades. Synthetic clothing takes hundreds of years to decompose.

The above are just a few ways in which the fashion industry pollutes Mother Earth.

I admire people who are fashionable and know how to sport the latest outfits, but much of it I believe is unnecessary. I’ve often wondered why a person cannot be considered fashionable in the simplest of clothing. The hype of haute couture will always be beyond my understanding. I’ve always felt that the money and resources used could be put to better and more productive use. Let’s think what we can do to change things and help our environment. After all it is our duty and we need to play our part no matter how small.

1. Re-use or donate – go through a Mary Kondo phase. Re-use your clothing for as long as you can, or donate to those who need it more. My city has clothing donation boxes all over and I’m sure there are plenty of options wherever you are. Children outgrow their clothes in no time, instead of throwing it away give them away to family members or friends who could re-use it. The plus points of this habit are many but one is that our children also learn to not just throw away things but to donate.

2. Recycle – There are many ways to recycle those old clothes. One of the easiest things to do is to re-use cottons as dust cloths or as a cloth to clean the car. There are many DIY videos out there that show us how to re-use old clothes. I lack such creativity but most of you don’t, so you could take out time and follow those DIY tutorials.

3. Buy second hand – Because my children outgrow their clothes I tend to buy second hand garments or the ones that factories dispose of for minor defects. Many cities do have factory outlets. These outlets usually sell clothes with very minor defects and these are sold cheaper. I have been mocked for this habit by my relatives, they’ve laughed and said “Don’t you care for your children? Why do u buy them cheap stuff when you can afford better?”. It hurt for a while but I let it pass. Go out there and buy such clothes, because simply put…it saves our Earth.

4. Wash less – I don’t mean don’t wash your clothes till they smell rotten. Just wash less often. Microfibers enter our waters when we wash our clothes, the marine life consumes them and then they indirectly enter our bodies when we consume marine life. So it’s that simple, do not needlessly wash garments. Wash after one wear is actually unavoidable here in the Middle East during the summer months but winter months are better. Washing less often will save water and avoid those microfibers and detergent chemicals from entering our waters.

5. Buy what you need – Be mindful of your purchases. You don’t really need a different outfit for every occasion. We ladies tend to shop crazily and buy an outfit for every occasion. Many of our fancy clothes just hang in there for years in our closets. Buy less, donate more.

These are just my thoughts. I’m sure we are all doing our part. Do comment below if you know of other ways through which we could tackle this problem. Working together will speed things and help our environment.

Coco Chanel once said, “Elegance does not necessarily involve putting on new clothes”

3 thoughts on “Wasteful Fashion

Add yours

  1. A topic close to my heart, it’s so important to raise awareness on this oft overlooked subject. Also all the tips you provided are highly useful and something we all need to make a conscious effort to implement.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you 100%. I’m perfectly fine wearing all the clothes in my cupboard for the rest of my life, until I outgrow them or have holes in them. I’m not very fascinated with the latest fashions or run crazily when there’s a sale.
    As for the information you gave about fashion houses and factories throwing away and burning un-used clothes, do ask references from where you got this information for confirmation 🙂


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