Hooray! We have reached the final part of the life cycle of your clothes! I hope by now, the life cycle of your clothes isn’t a mystery to you anymore. I also hope that you see how every part is linked to each other, and that, although I have explained it to you quite simply, the whole fast fashion system is quite complex. The fast fashion is so deep-rooted that it can’t be changed overnight and many years have to come before significant change can be made. Although it sometimes seems that we’re fighting an endless fight, we won’t give up. We believe that education is the key to change and therefore this series has been written. The more people know about the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry, the sooner sustainable fashion will become the norm and not an exception.
Do you notice the title of this part has been changed from cradle to grave, to cradle to cradle? This is to discourage waste and promote rewear, reuse and recycling. According to Zady, over the last five years, textile waste, based on weight, has increased more than 400%. Which is not surprising since a fast fashion item is only worn 10 times or less on average. But also a pity, considering 95% of all clothes thrown away could have been re-worn or recycled. This sounds crazy if you ask me! However, not for businesses in textile since they logically want the most profit for the least amount of effort. And unfortunately, on the short-term, recycling is still a costly activity. The fast fashion industry uses the short life span of fast fashion clothes to their advantage. If all clothing items would be timeless and would keep its quality for many years to come, fast fashion would not exist. Simply because consumers wouldn’t need to have a new wardrobe every single month.
There are multiple reasons for discarding clothes. The item has reached the end of its life, doesn’t fit properly anymore, or might not be fashionable enough to the user. Before throwing away a clothing piece, it is necessary to first look at the possibilities. Ask yourself why you are discarding the item and what you can do with it. Below I have listed three possible reasons to discard clothing and added some practical tips which you can consciously follow.
‘’I don’t like it anymore and/or doesn’t fit anymore, but its condition is still excellent to good.’’
This is a typical result caused by fast fashion. Since consumers are bombarded with new trends every month, style often changes and timeless wardrobes seem rare. What could totally be loved a few wears ago, can now be found dull or ‘untrendy’. Luckily, not everyone follows the latest trend and are more than happy to not dress according to it. If you possess an item that you don’t wear anymore but is still somewhat fashionable (this doesn’t mean according to the latest trends) and in excellent condition, try to sell it to second-hand stores. There are many shops, such as Opnieuw, a second-hand store in Breda, the Netherlands, which I really enjoy visiting every once a while. Their concept revolves around buying pre-loved and high quality clothes (mostly luxury brands) from consumers and selling them.
There are also multiple apps designed for selling second-hand clothes. United Wardrobe is a popular app that mediates individuals who sell pre-loved clothes and people buying them. This doesn’t immediately abolish the fast fashion industry, but definitely reduces waste and clothes are worn more often before their life-cycle ends.
Another solution, which we definitely love, is attending a clothing swap. This is an event, where you bring your clothes that are still in good condition and trade them for other clothes brought by others attending the event. Thanks to these happenings, you can freshen up your wardrobe with pre-loved clothes by not spending a dime and having a good time! An upcoming clothing swap, which we will be attending as well (let’s meet up!), is one organised by the Erasmus Paviljoen, which will take place on the 29th of April in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. For more information check their Facebook event.
‘’I could still wear the item, but don’t want to anymore because it looks a bit worn-out.’’
The first thing I think of when I have clothes that aren’t good enough to sell, but too good to throw away, is donating it to charity. There are many charities that work with pre-loved clothes, but I especially favour the Leger des Heils (Dutch Salvation Army). This organization has been collecting used clothes and textile for the past 100 years, whom then sell the clothes to textile sorting companies or sell them for a social price at their own second-hand stores. A small part of the collected clothes the organization keeps aside for disasters and emergencies. The money that they earn with these activities is being used for other social projects organized by the Leger des Heils.
Now however, I have to be honest with you. There are multiple charities that ship your old clothes to third world countries, which you probably feel is the good thing to do, right? Buzzkilll alert: it’s not. Third world countries are actually overloaded with old clothes, to a point where they can’t do anything with it anymore. In Haïti, a popular country for second-hand clothes donations, 90% of the donated clothes ends up at huge landfills consisting of almost only textile. The other 10% is sold to traders, who then sell it at local markets for a very small price. As a result of this, the local textile market has collapsed since the local textile manufacturers can’t compete with the low prices of the donated clothes. A solution for this? Wear your (or somebody else’s) clothes as long as possible and invest in quality pieces. And for the love of the fashion god, stop buying at fast fashion chains. You don’t need it. You really don’t. Just look at Nadia’s challenge and how she managed! If you really cannot or don’t want to wear a clothing item anymore, see what else you can do with it besides donating it. An activity that I seriously enjoy and don’t mind spending my time and old clothes on, is DIY’ing. The channel where you can find plenty of DIY’s, is good ol’ Pinterest. I have plenty of jeans that I don’t wear anymore because I don’t like their shape or because they have worn-out and zero shorts. After a little bit of searching, I have found a DIY that I might want to try out in the near future.
Another DIY that I’m planning to execute and publish about very soon are pillows made out of stockings. I can’t wait to show you!
‘’I don’t want to wear the item anymore because it is ripped, stained and/or very worn-out.’’
Sadly, there comes a time when we have loved our clothes so much that rips start to appear, colours start to fade and stains no longer can be washed out. Or have loved our clothes just a little, but the sh*tty quality causes the item to fall apart (to enjoy your clothes longer, be sure to read the previous part). The moment has come that we have to throw them away. We quite easily throw away stockings, underwear and socks together with the regular household waste. Which is a shame, because just like your jeans and t-shirts, they can also be recycled. While this sounds so simple, I do understand it is a lot easier (or just lazier) to throw your socks full with holes in the regular trash bin. Luckily, there are many stores and organizations that have made it a lot easier for you to consciously discard of your clothes by collecting clothes and reuse or recycle them afterwards. In 2013, fashion chain H&M launched an initiative where people could drop their unwanted garments, no matter what brand and what condition, at every H&M store in the world. Once the garments had been collected, they were sorted into three categories: rewear, reuse and recycle. Currently, one single garment can contain up to 20% recycled fibres without no loss of quality or durability and H&M has already made collections from recycled materials.
We have come to the end of this part and the whole series. I hope you have learned a lot and haven’t gotten tired of us! Please do not forget how much impact your decisions during the life cycle of your clothes really have. And I hear you think, how can one person make a difference? But if we would all think like that, wouldn’t we still live in the middle age with no progress on any aspect whatsoever?