Did you know that the t-shirt you just picked up at a local shop travelled once around the globe to finally end up in your closet?
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but it’s true.
A village of people made your clothes
The fast fashion way of doing textile production means every work stage is done in the cheapest way possible. When this strategy is taken to the extreme, it can mean that every seam in a piece of clothing is sown by a different person, in a different factory, in a different city, in a different country.
Now try tracing the social and environmental impacts of each of those operators.
Seems impossible, right?
In addition to low traceability transporting fabric back and forth causes ‘invisible’ pollution and uses resources that are not counted in the charts and numbers where environmental effects are presented to the consumer.
Global trade don’t know your taste
Textile sector’s sustainability issues, to say it nicely, are linked to the scale of production and consumption in addition to its use of resources. Large-scale production, global trade and internationally available goods mean that we are sold the same styles and materials no matter where we live. And it really seems that we are not happy with what we get since buying and discarding is happening in an ever accelerating pace.
Now, don’t get me wrong...
Global fashion taste or availability are not the problem. Fast fashion is and it is often promoted by huge companies that collect the profits and leave a big environmental and social mess behind. The best alternative ways of doing clothing, to me anyways, could be going more Light and more Local. I'll tell you more about Light Design in my next blogpost, but let's jump into Local Design.
Keep reading, I’ll tell you how this applies to your life!
Designing local has a lot to do with sustainability and connection. It comes down to sustaining communities with jobs in the designing, manufacturing and disposal stages of a product and sustaining the environment with responsible production.
When businesses are smaller and work in touch with their communities it allows us to see and sense the effects of our own actions on each other and the environment. We are quicker to suffer the consequences of irresponsible business behaviour or enjoy the benefits of sustainable production.
What I mean by that, is that the more connection we have to the company we buy our clothes from, the better we know if they are treating their people and the environment fairly.
Localism also represents an opportunity for distinctiveness with relevant and native designs that increase our connection to the clothing. Which in turn makes us use the piece more and take better care of it. This logic is totally opposite to the disposableness connected to fast fashion.
For example, VAI-KØ beanies are designed in Finland, inspired by Finland and made in Finland. So owning a beanie of ours allows you to have a piece of Finland in your wardrobe, and knowing that can make you more connected! And so the beanie isn't just a beanie anymore, it means something.
How could Localism threaten Globalism
I am not here to suggest that local production will replace global production but the consensus seems to be that rather than replacing, localism could complement, learn from and then start to influence globalism. A properly scaled production system would allow a diversity of alternatives to thrive and wealth to spread more evenly across areas and social groups.
Local production and design also doesn’t mean dropping of the trend-bandwagon. Mainly because of this great thing called the Internet (I’m sure you’ve heard of it) which allows consumers to easily connect with local producers that in turn are able to make specialized and even customized items. Localism can actually offer more and better alternatives to consumers than Globalism and its everything-for-everybody-at-any-cost type of fast fashion approach.
What are your favourite pieces of clothing and what makes them important, how do you connect to them?
Sustainable Fashion and Textiles (2008): Kate Fletcher