YOAN VALAT / EPA/MAXPPP
Last October, anExtinction Rebellion activist burst into a Paris Fashion Week show with a poster reading "Overconsumption = extinction". The operation denounces the impact of the fashion industry, which produces 8 to 10% of global CO2 emissions per year, on climate change. Despite the dramatic ecological and ethical situation, many of us still buy clothes from the fast fashion industry. Why is it so difficult to give up this consumption habit?
" Once you see how difficult it is to make clothes, how much time and effort it takes, you understand that it's just not possible that a t-shirt costs only 5 euros."
Wanda Wollinksy, a 31-year-old German fashion designer and co-founder of the eco-responsible brand Kasia Kucharska. Before her studies at the Berlin University of the Arts, she used to buy a lot of fast fashion clothes " because it's cheap, and when you're young you don't have much money ". She explains that at the beginning of her studies, it was a way to defend the democratisation of access to fashion. Today, based on her experience, she is no longer as convinced by this argument and only buys second-hand clothes.
The quantity of clothes that ephemeral fashion represents is what puts the young woman off the most.
"Most of these clothes are not biodegradable. It's alarming to think that they will continue to exist even after my death"she notes.
The co-founders of the brand, from left to right, Reiner Törner, Wanda Wollinsky and Kasia Kucharska © Laura Schaeffer
Yet fast fashion is a hit, even when its practices contradict consumers' ecological convictions. Although climate change is a major concern around the world, sales of disposable clothing have risen dramatically in recent years. a dramatic increase in recent years. in recent years. Between 2000 and 2014, global clothing production doubled. At the same time, the number of times a garment is worn has decreased dramatically.
What explains this paradox? Expert Valérie Guillard says it's because " buying is rewarding ". Professor of marketing at the University of Paris-Dauphine, and author, among other things, of the book entitled " Du gaspillage à la sobriété: Avoir moins et vivre mieux? (De Boeck Ed. 2019), her research focuses on the psychology and practices of consumers.
" When you buy something, it's a pleasure. Especially when it comes to clothes, you think you'll look better, you'll have something new to show off. And when you can consume something, it means that you are in touch with society, because society values consumption. Moreover, fast fashion is not expensive, which allows many social categories to have this pleasure. To give up this is to give up a certain way of being in relation to society. "
Valérie Guillard points out that it takes a long time to change a habit. The identity character of clothes makes the task even more difficult:
" Clothing is an identity, it is the exposure of oneself to others and the gaze of others counts a lot - it is normal, we are in society ".
In this context, giving up this consumption habit can be experienced as a deprivation.
The affordability of fast fashion is also a factor. In fact, this is the main strength of this segment of the clothing industry for Kartik Chawla, a 27-year-old PhD candidate, who visits H&M or Zara about every three months. The young man says he buys new clothes only according to his seasonal needs. However, he explains that going to a thrift store is not a practical alternative, as he does not have much energy to spend on shopping due to his professional occupation:
"I have tried to buy second hand clothes, but it takes additional time and effort to find the right garment and make sure it fits you well. You might not find what you want in the first shop, so you have to go to the next one, and so on... You have to go clothes hunting."
Kartik Chawla, 27 years old
Consuming a fast fashion brand is then more a matter of convenience. Kartik says it is willing to pay a little more for eco-responsible and ethical clothing.
" If I knew of a brand like this near me that matched my style preferences - a style that represents you, that's important - I would go there rather than to Zara "he says.
In fast fashion, the key word is fast - the speed at which new clothes are produced and brought to market. While high-end brands release two collections a year (autumn and spring), fast fashion companies such as Zara offer new styles and trends up to twice a week. In the case of Chinese online fashion retailer Shein, the design and production period is sometimes as short as 3 days days! As a result, consumers are encouraged to buy regularly for fear of running out. And the clothes are so cheap that you can easily justify an impulse purchase and feel like you are saving money.
The breakneck speed of disposable fashion had an impact on the way Kasia Kucharska's brand approached its own pace at the beginning of their venture. Wanda denounces a self-imposed pressure:
"We've been working on our clothes for about two years now. We've been working on our clothes for about two years now, and even though most people haven't even seen our designs yet, it feels like what we're doing is already old and we have to come up with something new every six months lest we be forgotten ".
Faced with this crazy pace, she defends slow fashion and its more thoughtful practices that respect the production chain.
Kasia Kucharska's underwear made entirely of latex and biodegradable Sandra Gramm
The phenomenon of micro-trends is accelerated by social networks. Today, more than half of the posts on Instagram are dedicated to fashion or beauty. Fast fashion brands are moving away from traditional advertising to more subtle and targeted marketing with the help of influencers. Through videos of haulThrough "haul" videos, content creators are building a more "authentic" relationship with users, as shown in the Arte documentary, Fast Fashion - Les dessous de la mode à bas prix.
Marie Cherasse, a 26-year-old Frenchwoman, says she limits herself to necessary purchases but recognises that social networks act as an external pressure "without us realising it.without realising it". She recalls, for example, the fashion of the Bardot top :
"I kept seeing it on social media, and seeing it worn, I thought it was beautiful. I found myself in the shop wanting to buy it".
In the end, she gave up the purchase. The ecological footprintdespicable"and the poor working conditions behind the manufacture of these fast fashion clothes motivated her decision and she has now banned herself from going to shops such as Mango or Stradivarius.
" Ct's untenable to think that just for a T-shirt you put on at a party, there are people who will suffer serious health problems or die of cancer at 23 "she notes, before adding: "I try to buy less everything. I try to buy less at all ".
Marie Cherasse, PhD student in condensed matter physics, wearing clothes from the eco-responsible brand Salut Beauté.
That's why when Marie was contacted by eco-friendly brand Salut Beauté to be their ambassador on Instagram, she hesitated before accepting. She didn't want to encourage consumption at all, but in the end she thought that promoting a brand that uses recycled fabrics and has a marketing strategy based on feminism is a way to highlight alternatives that can make people think about the way they consume.
Fashion designer Wanda Wollinsky can't help but notice the power of social networks for her slow fashion brand. Their Instagram page is their main form of communication outside of their website and can be a powerful marketing tool:
" When someone with a big platform posts a picture of our clothes and links us, we suddenly get 200 new followers and sometimes some sales. We also benefit from this. ".
Insatgram page of Kasia Kucharska
The expert Valérie Guillard notes that it is necessary to be discerning on social networks, which can be very intrusive and addictive. For her, a definitive way of escaping the solicitations is to simply not be there. However, she qualifies her statement by saying that " not everything on social networks is to be discarded"on social networks.
" You can also find help and good advice. For example, if you are starting a zero-waste initiative, it is interesting to be able to join a community of people who have the same aspirations as you and who will help you to start changing your practices. You need role models and to feel supported "she stresses.
Piles of discarded clothes in Chile's Atacama Desert © MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP / Getty Images
Last November, startling images emerged in the media of mountains of used textiles stretching as far as the eye can see in the Chilean desert. This type of open-air dumping ground, which can also be found in Ghana, India or the Ivory Coast, appears in our news feed more or less regularly.
In 2013, it was the collapse of the Rana Plaza, which housed several textile workshops and caused the death of at least 1,138 people, that left its mark.
There is no shortage of images and events showing a certain consumerist frenzy and its catastrophic consequences. It is therefore difficult to speak of an information deficit about fast fashion. " But is the information aware? "asks Valérie Guillard. She explains that it is necessary to take a step back and understand where we stand in relation to this issue.
Some deplore the greenwashing by brands and the confusion it can cause. Kartik Chawla is wary, for example, of clothing labels indicating sustainable manufacturing or 100% recycled materials:
"Sometimes I go back and try to check this data, but it is an extra effort. There may be a lot of things going on in the background that you just don't know about".
Marie Cherasse says she has adopted a self-imposed approach in which she systematically checks whether a garment is eco-responsible:
" It's a bit brain heavy when you're exposed to attractive offers every day and there's a craving going on in your mind. When I see that the suit doesn't meet my criteria, it can sometimes be a bit depressing ".
Professor Valérie Guillard believes, however, that being consistent with one's values can lead to a sense of well-being.
" As long as we have integrated the values of sobriety, we move the norm and this can bring us real satisfaction"she notes.
Buying less but better could therefore be a solution, but the expert warns of the dangers of an exclusionary discourse towards certain social categories and specifies that it is important to distinguish between " those who have purchasing power and can substitute quality for quantity and those who cannot ".
Wanda, for her part, reminds us that the quest for style can continue to be an enjoyable experience for consumers and that thrift stores and second-hand shops can be made her new mantra. " Fashion is fun!" she exclaims.
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