The online world. A place where everything is possible right from the comfort of the consumers’ home, questions have answers, people want the latest gadget it is right there at a click of a button easy access to the latest fashion trends, but this accessibility comes at a greater cost than people think, leading the world to try and come up with yet another solution to a completely man-made issue. From packaging to distribution, the purchasing of goods online has a negative impact on the environment with plastic landing in landfill and fumes given off from all the delivery vehicles that are harming the health of the human race (DeWeerdt, 2016). When looking for a better alternative it is often just thought buy everything in a physical store but is there an answer that means people can still do it online just with less of an impact to the environment, from advancements in packaging or the increase in popularity of renting clothes the ignorance of online shopping might be no more. Looking to the future there needs to be a solution so that humans don’t completely destroy the earth allowing it to live a long and happy life. Making sure that appearances are met a lack of care of fashion and the construction methods comes at the cost.
People are now more than ever looking for more sustainable clothing and items found within the slow fashion industry, strong built to last clothes are being favoured over fast production clothing which is unsustainable, although it is hard to find value clothing within the slow fashion industry people are still favouring that way. “We want to do more, own less and spend time on the things and people that matter to us. We were brought together by this love of simplicity” (ADAY, 2019) This showcases how the brand ADAY are combatting the issues surrounding the sustainability of peoples wardrobes, they look at how people own way too many clothes, that they will hardly ever wear but, they are also noticing how that is starting to change as people get more aware of how they are affecting the planet. With more and more people beginning to look at their wardrobes and decide that they need to get rid of things and only buy a few things that will last a long time they are jumping on this trend and creating a wardrobe for the busy people who are trying to do their bit for the environment with seasonless garments that are made to last. With the introduction of seasonless garments it will see a decrease in the waste of fast fashion, more thought will be taken into what people purchase but they will also know that what they buy will last and will stay in fashion for as long as the garment lasts, for a wardrobe staple it is the best way. Figure 2 shows one of their many seasonless garments, its fashionable and chic silhouette focuses the consumers minds to how garments don’t have to be just one season wear.
Having too many clothes is a very common problem that a lot of people find themselves with, and one that is finding quite difficult to solve, a lot of clothes lie around forgotten about when they could have gone to better use. “In the UK, an estimated £30bn of clothes hang unworn in bulging wardrobes” (Siegle, 2018, a) This shows the ridiculous amount that is just sat around waiting for their owners to one day find them and put them to good use. Online shopping has become so popular over recent years with its easy access but is this causing more problems than it should. As people are able to buy anything, they want at the click of the button is it increasing the amount of purchases that are made, this in turn means there are a lot of purchases made that did not need to be made and which then lines people’s wardrobes with clothes that are just never worn. This is very surprising, that people do not seem to care that they are wasting their money when they seem to be so careful with their spending on everything else so why are clothes different, this leads onto to the fact that the clothes are not even worn let alone just forgotten about or out of season, they just have never been put to use instead they just take up room.
The idea of renting a wardrobe is becoming a slightly more talked about topic nowadays, for years people have been all about owning the latest thing and having it being only theirs and brand new but, this is beginning to change people are now more aware of how wasteful it is to have a full wardrobe and only wear 10 items, making the idea of renting clothes seem a bit more reasonable. “Love what you wear every day. Get an endless wardrobe from £60 per month” (Wear the Walk, 2018) This shows that for a monthly subscription fee you can have access to the latest clothes by your favourite designer, something only dreamt about for many years. This is one of the better ways to combat online shopping as it still allows people to shop from home but also make better decisions about what they are ordering, people will take more time to think and plan what they would like in their wardrobe that month. This is the beginning of how online shopping is used and one of the ways to combat fast fashion.
When it comes to money many think that renting a wardrobe is an expensive way of going about shopping, but they never consider how much they already spend on clothes “British women spend an average of £74 per month on clothes” (Crisell, 2017) this suggests that people have the money to spend. Renting a wardrobe can be a cheaper alternative and then you can mix it up each month with new items to give your wardrobe the revamp that it wants, people are always wanting the latest designer pieces and with renting there is access to just that, no more looking at the pieces from afar they can become part of your wardrobe for a monthly fee. Subscription packages continue to grow from food to television there are so many different types, which people will happily pay, but clothing is always looked past, people for some reason shy away from the idea of renting clothes but could it be another way for humanity to combat fast fashion and have a better understanding of the consequences the actions of online shopping actually has. There will always be that designer coat that costs thousands that you wish you could own but with the accessibility you get from renting a wardrobe you would actually be able to have the item for a while until it goes out of fashion then you can swap it for the next big thing knowing that someone else will be able to enjoy it just as much as you did.
Sustainable fashion has become more popular in recent years with many designers opting to research new fabrics and ways to make them. Boztas (2018) explains that Anke Domaske- a biologist- who was developing a non-allergenic fibre from milk proteins for clothes, the research came from a technique in the 1930s this showcases some of the many different ideas that people have come up with, lots of developments in the production of fabrics has come from historical techniques that have been forgotten. When researching how people would have made and fixed clothes in the olden days it’s easy to see that the environment wasn’t as affected as it is today. There was a lot more care taken into how things were made and with a lack of machinery it was often all handmade at home, reducing the need for huge factories producing hundreds of thousands of the same item of clothing. With new research being collated more and more discoveries are being made into new production methods of fabrics, not only how they are made but also what is used to make them.
A generation of greed is now upon the earth with people wanting everything now, it has to be right there when they want it, and nothing is kept around very long “nearly a quarter of 16-24-year-olds said they would only be pictured in an item one to three times on social media before discarding it” (Lucy Siegle, 2018, b) this unfortunately is one of the biggest problems the fashion industry is facing day to day, and it is hard to see a way to fix this. People then throw the clothes out, they don’t think about charity shops of charity clothes banks, even clothes swaps with friends all things that would help to begin eliminating this problem. With the popularity surrounding social media, the fast fashion trend has really taken off, with the availability of clothes just a fingertip away, clothes have never been so attainable, for years people would save up for their one jumper or pair of trousers but now people just buy it straight away giving social media a lot to answer for, people are now more aware of their public image and who is viewing all of their profiles, keeping up with appearances is now more important to people and with this the negative of only wearing an item once before getting rid of it.
When buying online people rarely think about the delivery and how that affects the environment, they might consider how the garment is made and whether that is sustainable but hardly ever the delivery, “Delivery trucks also contribute substantially to the burden of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, in the air, which is associated with many effects on human health” (DeWeerdt, 2016) This shows just how bad online shopping is not just to the environment but to the health on humans, if people knew this would they still buy as much online or would it become a lot more frowned upon. When spending money online, the debate as to whether the delivery charge should be paid for or not can often decide if the purchase is made, many think that the charge can be ridiculous but if they realised how harmful the delivery is would the debate still be about paying the charge or would it move onto finding a solution that doesn’t affect the environment or human health.
The fast fashion industry is often discussed with a negative context towards the environment, but it’s not always talked about the effect it has on the people making it. Helbig (2018) describes “workers in developing nations often paid a pittance to labour” it’s shocking that for people to have the clothes they want when they want them, it comes at a greater cost for mankind, just for people to have access to fast fashion cheaply. With many high street brands looking to have all of their garments exported to be made overseas, often in very poor working conditions for the manufacturers and then they are paid poorly, the increase in popularity for fast fashion has meant that more and more companies are looking towards developing countries to get their clothes manufactured there for as little cost as possible. There are better options, not always the cheapest option, but they are better for humans and the environment which could include renting wardrobes that would reduce the need for fast fashion.
Black Friday has a lot to answer for especially to small companies who cannot keep up with the big online retailers. “The British Retail Consortium has said retailers had their worst Christmas in a decade” (BBC News, 2019) This shows how much online shopping can affect retailers, Christmas has always been the busiest time in the retail calendar, but people are now opting to complete their Christmas shopping on Black Friday with all of the discounts and deals that are available. People are always on the hunt for the latest and best deal, the cheapest way for them to be able to buy what they are after, which explains why people go mad for black Friday, they can get their Christmas shopping finished early and feel like they didn’t break the bank. But with the increase of people doing their shopping on this day or should it be said cyber week, it leaves the question as to whether it is the best way for shopping to be done, is it just causing more problems for later down the line. Not only is it showing the pure volume of people completing their online shopping it is also taking the customers away from small independent businesses who can’t keep up with the deals that the big companies are able to offer.
Online shopping has really taken off with people being able to spend their hard earned money right from their home and have their new wardrobe dropped off the next day, the world is now active 24/7 there is always something going on somewhere and peoples schedule are now a lot busier and they don’t have much free time which has had a real impact on the way that clothes are bought, people tend not to have big shopping days where they go into their local towns and cities and buy from local shops, it has become a lot more online. “Shoppers who once crowded malls are now ordering on phones, computers and tablets, siphoning sales from physical stores, which face growing pressure to reinvent their businesses” (Associated Press, 2016) This shows just how much online shopping has affected local businesses, this couldn’t have been predicted a few years ago but it is definitely going in the direction of everything being online as it is easier for people to fit around their busy schedules, although it is more practical as people can buy what they want when they want it and it will be on their doorstep the next day, without ever needing to leave their home or their pyjamas this allows people to spend more time at home and get everything they want without any hassle, shopping has never been easier.
Companies nowadays are more focused on cost and how to make their designs the cheapest they can so that they can get the best profit available, but this is beginning to change with some companies trying to find the best way to make their garments to the best quality for price for the consumer and also the best quality of life for those who make them. Everlane is one of the leading brands trying to explore this they “spend months finding the best factories around the world—the same ones that produce your favorite designer labels.” (Everlane, 2019) this shows that they know who their manufacturers are which gives assurance when the consumer decides to buy from this particular brand, which eliminates the ignorance of online shopping. Unfortunately, they are one of the very few brands who are so transparent within their sales, Figure 3 shows the full cost break down of their products, this helps to raise awareness of how other companies sell their products and shows just how much profit some companies add to their products. It also showcases how possible it is to make garments to a professional and sustainable standard for less.
Packaging is another big factor within the online shopping argument, with many companies opting for packing their products in plastic that can’t be recycled and which will just end up in landfill. But there are new alternatives, for instance made of mushroom roots and crop waste “Eco-cradle decomposes within weeks as against Styrofoam packaging that can take centuries to decompose” (We Don’t Have Time, 2018) this showcases the movement in packaging production and how new inventions are becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly. With new options becoming available the impact that online shopping has on the environment should fall as less will end up in land fill, making the whole process a lot more sustainable. Figure 4 shows the disgusting procedures packaging goes through to be made but it also shows how Eco-cradle takes a much more natural approach
Plastic bags are still causing a lot of issues and with the rise of online shopping this isn’t going away anytime soon unless companies start to do something about it. It’s a difficult thing to sort out as “There are precisely zero opportunities to have a chat with a human to ask if they could kindly lose the excessive packaging and multiple carrier bags” (Siegle, 2018, pg. 132) unlike shopping in a physical store, but is there a way to sort this. With the lack of conversation between the consumer and the company, companies just have to make sure that the product they are selling is well packaged so that it arrives safely instead of thinking too much about the amount of packaging that is involved or the type of packaging that is used.
Overall the whole idea of online shopping is one of the best ideas that the human race has come up with, the practicality and ease to be able to purchase anything you want when it is wanted or needed and know that it will be on the doorstep the next day is something that should be celebrated. Although it is a brilliant idea the execution of the process is something that needs a lot of work. Packaging is a very good place to start, finding something that can be re-used or will decompose quickly instead of sitting in landfill, but it just needs a better understanding from big suppliers who still rely on plastic. Renting wardrobes would help to eradicate the amount of fast fashion in supply but also the amount of waste or unworn items that sit filling up the wardrobe, being able to access the latest sought out designer pieces and stick to the fashion trends without the waste is the perfect option (Wear The Walk, 2018) . The ignorance of online shopping will disappear once companies stand up to the ignorance and do something about it. Future generations still have to live on this planet, luckily for them the world of online shopping is beginning to move in the right direction.
Hello, Eleanor here, I am currently at Norwich University of the Arts studying Fashion, please join me along my adventure.