Clara Vuletich – Sustainability strategist and designer
Fashion and sustainability. These are two very different things. Fashion is sexy, addictive, exclusive, and very fast-moving. Sustainability, on the other hand, is about slowness, care, flourishing and responsibility. It’s fair to say that the fashion industry, until very recently, hasn’t been very sustainable. We are drowning in clothes and textiles.
Clothing sales have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. Did you know that you have four times the amount of clothes in your wardrobes than your parents did? And in the UK, over 1 million tons of clothing goes into landfill every year. While we have more clothes in our wardrobes, we’re not necessarily any happier.
Fast fashion has turned us into these passive consumers who are constantly chasing the fantasy that buying more clothes will make us happy. And, as we know, the people who make our clothes are often working in quite far away countries from us here in Australia, in quite poor working conditions and paid quite poorly.
Look at what happened at Rana Plaza, the factory accident in Bangladesh, in 2013. Over 1,000 people lost their lives while they were making clothes for brands from the US and the UK. I’ve worked in this space as a designer and a researcher for almost ten years. I’ve spoken to many of the designers, brand managers, suppliers, retailers and consumers, and there’s often a lot of finger-pointing that goes on.
Consumers blame the brands for paying such low wages to often outsourced workers. Brands say that the price of their clothing is so cheap because that’s actually all that people want to pay. Activist organizations blame the brands for following business models that prioritize profit at all costs. And governments often just watch cautiously from the sidelines.