The global apparel market is valued at £3 trillion. The value of the UK fashion industry is around £66 billion. In other words fashion is one of the biggest and most lucrative markets that there is. However, it’s also one of the most damaging. A study by news site AlterNet found that textile is the second biggest polluting sector, behind only Big Oil. The fashion industry’s record on animal rights is pretty poor – leather and cruel fur farms are constantly a source of scandal. Add to that the claims of child slave labour and poor working conditions and you have an industry that seems all about beauty that is only skin deep.
Nevertheless, 2016 has been a bumper year for ethical and sustainable style. Designers such as Stella McCartney lead the way in cruelty free clothing and campaigns such as #whomademyclothes have got people to think about where clothes really comes from. Of course there is a still a long way to go. One of the major obstacles to reducing spend on disposable fashion has always been the perception that anything else is more expensive. Cheap clothes have become enormously popular and few of us really think about where they come from or what, or who, has suffered to make them. And because the jeans or shoes were so cheap, if we get fed up of them then we just throw them out and buy something new. However, while many of us might have blocked out the moans of environmentalists and animal rights activists there might also be a cost to our own pockets in buying fashion fast and cheap. Is disposable fashion eating into our disposable income more than we thought?
Don’t buy fashion that you don’t need
Fashion is fast moving, there is no doubt about that. However, many of us end up making purchases we never wear simply because they’re cheap. Think about your own wardrobe – if you’re like the rest of the country then you probably haven’t worn about a third of it. Those pastel jeans that seemed like a good idea at the time; the full-length leopard print coat; the cricket jumper. Even the less outlandish purchases can end up sitting in the back of the closet, either because we don’t really like them or we just forget they are there. Doing away with the “it’s cheap, I’ll buy it anyway” attitude can save you a huge amount of cash. Every £20 or £50 here and there adds up, so save your bank account the headache and cut down on the unnecessary spend.
Buy fewer but higher quality garments
One thing never changes with fashion and that’s “you get what you pay for.” Jeans from a low cost, high street shop will never last as long as a hand stitched pair made from 100% denim, that’s just a fact. You might think that you’re cutting your costs by buying cheap but the number of times you need to replace a single item could end up tripling what you paid for it. Durability, quality and good workmanship aren’t hallmarks of cheap disposable fashion but these all tend to be the features of non-disposable fashion that lasts and lasts.
Vintage & retro is cool
The trend for vintage items sourced from charity shops and markets is still going strong. That’s great news for the environment and fantastic news for your bank balance. If you’ve ever gone charity shopping you’ll know that you can slash your budget by half to a third if you opt for pre-loved items rather than brand new. Recycling clothes in this way is much kinder to the environment. Plus the buzz of scoring that hard to find vintage piece – at a fraction of the high street cost – is hard to beat.
Save up for special purchases
Saving is an off-putting word to many of us. The world now is geared towards giving us what we want when we want it and there’s just no need to wait. However, saving up for something means that you buy what you can actually afford. It often allows you to buy something of better quality that is slightly more expensive. That piece will likely last longer, you might even hand it on to next generations. If you wait and save you could end up with a wardrobe of beautiful things that will last a lifetime rather than a closet of cheap, out of style clothes that are unwearable after a month.
Disposable fashion has been praised for giving everyone access to the latest styles. However, it’s starting to look like a trend that takes more from our wallets than it gives to our wardrobes. Whether for ethical or financial reasons, maybe it’s time to throwaway disposable fashion.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley