THE growing issue of ethical fashion has shone a spotlight on the sustainability of “fast fashion” and in turn, guiding the fashion industry down a road toward more sustainable fibre use.
“Fast fashion” is a term coined to the quick turnaround times between runway, manufacture and retail which can be as short as ten days.
During a presentation at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show’s Women of Wool, Bendigo, Vic, Whitehouse Institute of Design head Karen Webster called on consumers to rethink the volume of clothes they have in their closets.
“Fifty years ago designers used to do two collections a year, spring/summer, autumn/winter,” she said.
“A lot of people still think that’s what we do, but in reality, it is quite different.
“The average fashion designer now creates anything between 18 to 25 collections a year.”
Ms Webster, a leading fashion advocate, said the top end of fashion’s pyramid had also responded to the rise of fast-fashion by emulating a similar model with collections, pre-collections and pre-pre-collections.
This is a discussion the large global clothing chains want to avoid, she said, with some fashion designers expecting to produce a new collection on a weekly basis.
“What has this done? It has created a speed culture of fast fashion which means we are producing far too many clothes,” Ms Webster said.
In the 1960s, she said households spent on average 20 per cent of the family income on clothing.
Currently people spend on av less than 4pc but are purchasing 60pc more clothes.
“If you spent 20pc of your family income on clothing now, the fashion industry would be the most buoyant and dynamic industry,” she said.
“The industry now from concept to delivery into retail store can churn ideas out in less than 10 days – where is the time for reflection and review?”
The social impact is extraordinary with Australian charities spending more than $20 million annually on disposing textile products dumped in third world countries.
“Our next generation of designers need to think about the way they design,” she said.
“And (consumers), only buy what you love; if you don’t love it, do not buy it.
“Our designers today need to understand how to respect quality – true manufacture.”
She said the wool and cotton industries were well placed to leverage from the sustainable fibre movement, but urged for greater provenance and production promotion.
“We need to tell a story, it’s about the narrative,” she said.
“When you buy something with a story, you are going to keep it because it is something special and potential heirloom.
“We need to respect the craft again.”