I like your top,
where’s it from?
Online Arts & Lit Editor Lucy Aylmer gives the low down on the unfashionable truths behind the journeys our clothing purchases make to get to our wardrobes.
The T-shirt has become ubiquitous in the western world. It is often used as a statement of adoration for favourite bands and singers, or a tribal reminder of your loyalties to a university society. Whatever the symbolism, T-shirts are comfortable, practical and widely worn. But what exactly are the implications of wearing one?
Due to cotton production requiring intense irrigation systems, the process of producing one T-shirt requires 2,700 litres of water. The process is water intensive and relies on pesticides to prevent interference of crop growth. This improves their resilience to fight back against fungal diseases and other hindering activities that would damage cotton crops. The recurring use of pesticides contaminates freshwater supplies, and places undue strain on a growing populations’ increasing demand for water.
The production of fast fashion appears to benefit consumers to the environmental detriment of producers
In India, a mixture of water overuse and pesticide deployment has led to 58% of wells in the north west experiencing declining water levels. According to the World Resources Institute, demand will outstrip supply by 50%. To add fuel to the fire, 70% of cotton producing nations are developing countries’ such as Brazil, India and Pakistan. Typically characterised by burgeoning populations, water insecurity is likely to impact on developing countries’ progress and threaten the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. The production of fast fashion appears to benefit consumers in the developed world to the environmental detriment of producers in the developing world.
T-shirts are one example of many garments involved in the fast fashion industry. Denim is another material that is equally damaging to the environment and requires substantial amounts of chemicals that are profoundly damaging to the environment. According to Dana Thomas, author of Fashonopolis, 99.9% of the denim we wear, is dyed with synthetic indigo which contains toxins harmful to humans. Methods of clothing production are a serious issue for the fashion industry and one that needs urgent attention.
Methods of clothing production are a serious issue for the fashion industry and one that needs urgent attention.
Production is only part of the overall problem. However, efficient distribution is the main root, cause and creation of fast fashion. Without speedy distribution channels there is no ‘fast’ in ‘fast fashion’.
Zara uses a centralised business model with its main headquarters in Arteixo, Spain. The Intidex HQ (the conglomerate which owns Zara) covers an 860,000 square foot campus and is home to 10 different factories with all their products produced on site and later sent off to varying distribution channels. This centralised business model enables the company to deliver goods to European stores within an impressive 24 hours and to its American and Asian stores in less that 40 hours. Rapid responses to catwalk designs have significantly reduced the lead times and, as such, have firmly grounded the name ‘fast fashion’.
So next time someone asks where your top is from, really think about the question, the players involved and the wider impacts they have. After all, a top is never just from Zara.