11 February 2021

The clothes we (don’t) need

Source: Wonder Wardrobe


Project Assistant and Researcher
Foreign Policy Initiative BH

Do you often find yourself getting bored of your clothes? Have you ever thought about what can you do instead of simply throwing them away?

The study shows that we wear our clothes an average of 4 times, and 64% of respondents say they throw it out because they don’t like it anymore, whereas 40% don’t find it their style anymore. Interestingly, 30% claim to need more room for new clothes. As a society, we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago, and this is what fuels the cheap fast fashion industry. However, it often comes at a high price.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, because of the fast fashion sector, that refers to cheap products and garments that are just copies of the latest catwalk styles, produced for the purpose of maximizing on current trends. Such clothing seems very appealing and attracts a lot of profit, but once trickled down to the very production process, one can notice not only the environmental damages (e.g. water pollution), but also the human rights abuses (e.g. modern slavery). But, not to rain on anyone’s parade, there is an alternative.

A concept of ‘circular fashion’ has been introduced first in 2014 and has grown in popularity over the years. This notion combines the key theories of ‘sustainable fashion’ with the concept of a ‘circular economy’, both centered around the general idea that nothing never ends up as waste. In simple words, sustainable fashion is a movement that considers the whole system of fashion, making sure that clothing, shoes and accessories are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible. Circular economy looks beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model, resting on the following three pillars: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems. Green Strategy defines circular fashion as garments that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the purpose to be used in a responsible and effective manner, employing safe and ethical practices that consider the environment by returning the materials safely to the biosphere once the materials are no longer usable. In the long run, such process has a positive effect on the economy, environment and society. By eradicating waste, minimizing, tracking and eliminating the use of toxic chemicals, materials are more durable, and fashion is more conscious, circular and compassionate. Data indicates that doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years can reduce yearly gas emissions by 24%.

Fashion should not have a limited timeline and be gone out of style in a matter of months. Production of new clothes should be fair and ethical, upholding the rights of workers and animals. This approach enables for maximization of resources and minuses waste, thus focusing on doing good rather than just focusing on doing less bad. Once worn out, clothes can be repaired and thrifted at second-hand shops for lower price. This method could kick the fast fashion habit and eventually, make people shop less.

The examples of good practice can be found among some of the popular fashion brands (e.g. Levi’s), who are developing their recycling strategy and incentivizing their customers to buy and sell second-hand or trade in old pieces for a gift card. This example also extends to the fast fashion industry (e.g. H&M), where similar actions have been on the rise, proving that this type of industry can also be sustainable and do something better for environment once the creators put their minds to it. Moreover, the second-hand trend is present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Western Balkans region, entailing shops where one can find and purchase, among other things, 80s and 90s fashion items that are now considered ‘trendy’ again in many youth fashion industries. The second-hand clothing items are also promoted on social media and some of the most popular thrifters from Bosnia and Herzegovina include Resell Sarajevo, Rahatlook and Thrift Baza, selling items that are vintage, recycled and hand-picked.

So, next time you look at that old T-shirt lying on your chair, think of what else you could be doing instead of simply throwing it away. Repair, buy second-hand and support small (local) brands, invest in quality pieces that will last and start developing sustainable shopping habits.