Today, the average person buys around 50% more clothes than they did in 2000. This bulging market, ever feeding our need to be a part of the next trend, is a consequence of fast fashion. So, what is fast fashion? And how are Trouser Project, a Manchester-based fashion brand, helping to turn the tide?
Fast fashion is the production of low-cost, low-quality clothes and common high street culprits include H&M, Zara, and Urban Outfitters to name just a few. Unfortunately, these clothes which many of us depend on are anything but cheap. The irreversible environmental impact of fast fashion, coupled with the abhorrent human rights violations which workers (80% of which are women) suffer, demonstrates the true cost of fast fashion. So, whilst we in the UK enjoy ‘trendy’ but affordable garments, the hidden cost of our wardrobe wreaks havoc in low-income countries where our clothes are made.
The environmental cost of fast fashion is primarily made up of energy and water usage. To put this in perspective, the industry consumes 79 trillion litres of water per year, enough water for everyone in the world to have 320 cups of tea each. Sadly, what’s worse is that of the many clothes we produce, 92 million tonnes per year end up incinerated, landfilled or exported to low-income countries. All this amasses to a colossal carbon footprint, amounting to 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Simply put, in the midst of climate and biodiversity crises, this excessive use of natural resources is unsustainable and must be quickly curtailed.
Slow Fashion: Turning the tide
Slow fashion typifies longer-lasting, locally produced clothing, primarily made from sustainably sourced fair-trade fabrics. Principally, the key message attached to slow fashion is buy fewer but better clothes i.e. instead of purchasing three pairs of trousers from a fast fashion brand, buy one pair for the same price. This pair of trousers will undoubtedly be more durable, more environmentally friendly and workers are likely to have been paid a much fairer price for their labour. Furthermore, this option is more economical because unlike the fast fashion trousers which use lower-quality fabrics and so perish more quickly, the higher-quality fabrics used in slow fashion means you won’t have to buy new trousers as frequently.
As well as seeking out more sustainable, durable items for your new wardrobe. Another important aspect of slow fashion is waste. 92 million tonnes of clothes per year is calamitous and underscores the hidden world of fast fashion. If these clothes polluted your local area like they do in so many low-income countries, I’m sure your community would have a lot to say about it and would think twice before throwing away clothes. But the fact is the impact of choices is hidden from us and so, understandably, many of us contribute to this toxic, never-ending cycle. Slow fashion means minimal waste. Recycle your old garments at a clothes bank. Many of the items we throw away are still in good condition… take them to a charity shop. They might make someone else very happy. There are even people willing to pay money for your second-hand clothes on Depop and eBay! Critically, it is easier than ever to minimise the waste you produce from your wardrobe, and it is the one part of this issue we as consumers can control.
One Manchester-based company that embodies the principles of slow fashion is Trouser Project, based in Afflecks Palace. Unless it is a custom piece, the majority of their clothes are sourced from charity shops and upcycled. From incorporating poetry into their clothes to utilising bleach to make abstract, colourful patterns, designer and Founder Megan Lewis uses a variety of mediums to “jazz up” your clothes. One item at a time, simultaneously reducing waste and increasing the lifetime of otherwise disposed clothes, Trouser Project are a breath of fresh. Challenging mainstream brands with their handmade, locally sourced designer pieces.
To raise awareness of slow fashion, we teamed up with Trouser Project to produce a collection built around the theme of the biodiversity crisis engulfing the world (see below). In the UK, this issue is particularly critical as our biodiversity intactness is 53%, significantly lower than the 90% safe limit to avoid ecological disaster. We desperately need to reconnect with and nurture nature, rather than exploit it for natural resources or to build unnecessary infrastructure like HS2.
To see the full collection go to our Instagram page here. If you are interested in any of the items or want to find out more, please contact us here or via our Instagram page. You can also visit Trouser Project on the second floor in Afflecks Palace to see the full collection and many other wonderful pieces.
A special thanks to all the artists who contributed to this collection. We could not have done it without you.