A Fashion Epidemic: The Era of So-Called ‘Disposable Clothes’ and the Negative Repercussions of ‘Wearing it for the Gram’

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Phoebe Walker, Journalism Undergraduate, University of Roehampton

Dana Thomas and Jennifer Cox discuss ‘Is looking good doing bad?’

‘Our cheap decisions have consequences,’ fashion journalist and author Dana Thomas declares to her audience at Wimbledon BookFest. She sits poised in an armchair on the stage across from leading journalist Jennifer Cox. The two of them begin to discuss fast fashion and the role it plays in Dana’s bestselling book Fashionopolis, which looks at how we, as consumers, can reshape the clothing industry tackling its huge environmental and economic damage.

The book's journey began, Dana tells us, with an investigation into the serious increase in demand for affordable, fashionable clothes. How were fast fashion supply chains coping with this? A visit to a sweatshop in Ho Chi Minh confirmed they were not coping. The working conditions were frightening, and nobody was being paid a living wage. Dana knew right then that she needed to find out why this was happening and begin a fight for change.

‘We live in an era where we are all micro influencers,’ Dana explains. Endless images of our favourite celebrities fill our screens, parading the latest fashion fad and never daring to wear it twice. They’ve influenced us that's for sure, but who’s to say we needed to be influenced?

Our entire attitude towards clothes has changed. We no longer pine after them, care for them and find enjoyment in styling them. But instead buy impulsively and flaunt them on Instagram for compliments from strangers then reject them after one wear.

It's a generational thing, Dana says. Look back 20 years when consumers bought six times less clothes than we do today. You wouldn't shop the high street for a new outfit for every occasion, instead you would shop your closet and discover what could be reworn, reworked and restyled.

Now consumers want more. As the prices and quality of our clothes goes down, we attach less value to them and therefore buy more to compensate. ‘We shove clothes into dirty shopping carts like we’re shopping for groceries.’ Dana says, describing a scene she saw in a Primark store in Amsterdam. Don’t go for the impulse buy, instead invest in really good quality clothes, she suggests.

Take Catherine Middleton and Meghan Markle for instance, rocking the royal rewear and getting the most use out of their clothes. They are showing us that it’s okay to wear a piece more than once, in fact it’s cool to do that; styling clothes in different ways and playing around with what you pair together, that’s what fashion is all about.

Dana Thomas will be touring around schools and universities with her bestselling book Fashionopolis hoping to start a discussion which will go on to create a much-needed change in the fashion industry.