I’ve had two tiny babies, each weighing just 2kg. I thought it would take months for them to grow into their newborn clothes. How little did I know! It became a constant challenge to keep up with their growth and ensure they’d worn all of their clothes at least once before they were discarded.
Babies and children grow quickly. And as a result, cheap, mass produced clothing is not only appealing, but often a necessity for parents.
Is this such a problem? Sadly, yes. The fashion industry is responsible for around 20% of water pollution and 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t sustainable. And so while we can’t slow the growth of our children, we can slow the growth of fashion, by looking for more sustainable alternatives. In this post we take a look at the impact of fast fashion and how we can adopt a slower, kinder approach to buying clothes.
What is fast fashion?
Firstly, what is fast fashion? We used to have four seasons in the fashion industry. We now have more like 52. Almost every week fast fashion brands launch new collections onto their shop floor. These clothes are made quickly and cheaply. Yes, this does make them more affordable. But it also makes them disposable. They’re not designed to last, or to be recycled, but to encourage us to buy anew. And often, after they’ve been worn once or twice (perhaps never at all) they end up in landfill sites, or donated to overwhelmed secondhand shops.
Why is this harmful?
- Fashion and textile is one of the highest polluting industries, requiring a huge amount of water, energy and chemicals. A cotton t-shirt alone takes up to 2,700 litres of water to produce. This is enough water for one person to drink for 900 days.
- According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2015, and yet the average number of times a piece of clothing was worn decreased by 36%. This trend of over production at the expense of quality and longevity has continued.
- Many fast fashion items are only worn once or twice before they’re thrown away. According to WRAP this equates to a predicted £140 million worth of clothing entering landfills each year.
- In order to keep up with the production pace, fast fashion companies will often cut corners in their supply chain, resulting in dangerous working conditions and low pay.
The list of stats could go on. In short, fast fashion has a significant impact on the people involved in the supply chain and the planet around us.
Slow fashion is the antithesis of fast fashion
Slow fashion is a kinder, more sustainable alternative. It’s about making a conscious decision: designing, creating and buying fewer, higher quality clothes that will last for longer. It encourages timeless designs, slower production, sustainable fabrics and ethical working conditions.
Slow fashion has gained momentum over the last few years, accelerated by events such as the 2013 Dhaka factory collapse, which killed over 1,000 people and injured many more in Bangladesh. And more recently, when many high-street brands cancelled their ready-to-ship orders following the outbreak of COVID-19. Sadly this was at the expense of their factories.
How can we slow our shopping down?
We may be more aware of the issues, but with our rapidly growing children and the temptation of a £3 T-shirt, how can we practically slow our shopping down?
Here are 5 R’s to help us out:
- This is about rethinking how and where we buy our clothes
- If we need to buy new, consider where they come from, who made them, what they’re made from and how easy they are to maintain and wash
- Consider timeless, gender-neutral designs that are made to last, so that they can be passed on to siblings and friends
- We can encourage our children to rethink fashion too. Fashion Revolution and Traid both offer kid-friendly resources to help.
- This is about reducing our environmental impact by limiting the number of new clothes we buy
- Do our children need another t-shirt, bodysuit or jumper? If they do, let’s buy good quality clothing that will last
- Consider secondhand clothing where possible
- This is about reusing clothes, either hand-me-downs, or customising the clothes we already have
- According to our market research, nearly 50% of people use hand-me-downs for their children. This is great news! We are already pro’s at reusing clothes for our kids
- This is about looking after and repairing our clothes
- I know this might seem daunting, but as and when we can, let’s give it a go, whether it be a replacement button, new popper or a funky looking knee patch
- WRAP’s Love your Clothes website gives some great ideas and advice
- When our children no longer need their clothes let’s recycle them
- Either upcycle, donate them, or send them off to be recycled.
How are we responding at Ducky Zebra?
We are applying the same 5 R’s to Ducky Zebra. And here’s how ...
- Organic cotton: our clothes are made from GOTS certified organic cotton to reduce their environmental impact and ensure fair and safe working conditions. No harmful chemicals are used in the growing of organic cotton, and it emits up to 46% less greenhouse gases than non-organic.
- Digital printing: our fabric is digitally printed rather than screen printed, helping to reduce our impact further. Although it’s more expensive, digital printing offers a higher quality and is better for the environment. It uses less water, less energy and less ink compared to screen printing.
- Manufacturing process: our manufacturing partner in India is continually looking for ways to rethink their processes to reduce their impact. Currently 50% of their power comes from solar energy and soon this will be 85%. They harvest rainwater, which helps to save the groundwater level, and recycle all waste water. Fabric end bits are either given to the charity centre for re-use, or sent to the mills to make recycled yarn.
- Longevity: our clothes are made from high quality fabric, and are designed to last and pass on to siblings and friends for reuse. Sizing is generous, with features like turn-up cuffs to increase longevity. By ensuring our clothes are durable their life can be extended, helping to reduce carbon, water and waste footprints.
- Timeless, gender-neutral designs: rather than adopting the latest trends or seasonal gimmicks, we rethink fashion for children. We create small volumes of colourful, unisex designs that can be reused regardless of season or gender.
- Pre-loved programme: Our pre-loved programme allows you to recycle your Ducky Zebra clothes by returning them to us. We’ll then pass them onto our charity for resale and reuse. In exchange, and as a thank you, we’ll give you 15% off your next purchase. This programme helps reduce the number of clothes that may end up in landfill.
- Recycled materials: our greeting cards, mailing bags and packaging are all recyclable, naturally.
Have you spotted that we’re missing one of the R’s? We’re currently discussing how we can add repair into the mix.
Ducky Zebra is a small start-up, and there’s always more that we can do. We’d love to get your thoughts on how we can contribute further to a slower, kinder fashion. If you have any tips or suggestions please send them our way.