Green Living: The End of 'Trashion'?

The market for cheap clothes wis worth millions of pounds in the UK. Stores like Primark, Asda, Tesco were the pioneers but recently even H&M have jumped on board with what is extremely lucrative but highly unsustainable. Most of the clothes found in cheaper clothing aisles are manufactured in Bangladesh. The market primarily caters to young people - college and school going girls are the obvious target. I have been guilty of the occasional purchase or two at Primark myself in my pre- green living, super-poor university days.

In the US the trashion trend is most prominent in Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart and other outlets. It is not so much the unsustainability of the manufacturing process, clothes that are mass-produced have a high turnover rate. They are marketed and manufactured in such a way that they last only one season. Recently however, Bangladesh  has announced an 80% rise in its minimum wage and this comes in the wake of cotton prices jumping to an all-time high in 15 years.

Many people who do buy trashion are not unaware of the working conditions where the clothes are manufactured. Yet purchases are made because they can buy a dress that costs £6 which is sometimes less than a take-out meal! The temptation of a bargain spares little thought for what happens on the other side of world. But all this could change with the announced price hike.

Retailers of low-cost fashion are scrambling to absorb the price hikes so that they can still keep retail prices low. A spokesperson for Primark said that like all retailers the chain  “got a number of levers to pull” in managing increased costs. The fact remains that clothing prices in the UK are rising for the first time in 18 years and it has far-reaching implications for sustainability as it could mean compromises somewhere else along the supply chain.

When you actually take out a calculator and add up what's spent on trashion each year, it will soon be obvious that is makes economical sense to buy things that last. One of the best things about UK fashion is the prominence of second-hand charity and vintage clothing shops. Oxfam one of the biggest re-sellers of second hand clothes has a vintage selection which is available to purchase online.  They have also teamed up with M&S in a clothes exchange scheme where old M&S clothes can be exchanged in an Oxfam shop for a voucher.

Many high street brands have taken a jump into the ethical clothing market. Several brands have introduced products using Fairtrade cotton and other ethically source material. Other have started to tackle issues like sweatshop conditions and are working with suppliers who ensure that workers are treated right. All these have become an important part of their CSR policies and consumers should be encouraging brands such as these.

Several ground-breaking designers have been pushing the ethical clothing market with their creativity and eye for aesthetics. As the market for green apparel grows all these efforts will become more prominent and there might finally come a day when trashion will be dead.

Photo Credit: Reproduced with permission.