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Can #BuyNothingDay put a dent in our fast-fashion addiction?

By Vivian Hendriksz


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Fashion |OPINION

London - 20 percent discount at Asos under the codename GoGoGo. 30 percent discount at Levi's. Urban Outfitters and Monki offer 50 percent off on selected lines, while H&M goes for up to 60 percent off, following its 20 percent off promotional offer. All weekend long, these fashion retailers have been flashing their tantalising discounts at me, teasing me with the promise of a great deal via email, encouraging me to score a great deal through Facebook and making sure I don't forget it's Black Friday, which means extra discount, using push-notifications.

All these offers, deals and discounts make it clear that fashion retailers were hoping to tap into the shopping phenomenons Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Previously limited to the United States, these promotional days have since spread across the globe, as retailers encourage consumers to get a jump start on their holiday shopping lists. With advertisements and signs shouting at you from all around, it becomes different to resist the promise of a good bargain. Just imagine that wonderful rush you will feel when you buy that amazing designer coat at 50 percent off! Who cares if it's impractical and a bit too tight around the chest, you still managed to snag the last one on the rack before that girl with the blond fringe even spotted it, you are the winner!

Greenpeace tries to tackle our obsession with fast-fashion

Unsurprisingly research has shown the high felt during shopping, that rush of adrenaline and sense of winning during a sale is not that dissimilar to alcohol, drug or food addiction. And much like these addictions, these short-lived feelings of pleasure tend to be followed by bouts of guilt. But they tend to be insufficient from stopping us from indulging in our next shopping trip, one which can easily triggered with the flash of a sales banner. In the past, our fight-or-flight response would be triggered when coming face to face with a predator. Nowadays, our body's are triggered in a similar way when news of sale reach us as the fear of missing our on a killer purchase can flick on our competitive mode, making it hard to ignore the impulse to buy something.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are predicted to generate billions of dollars in sales for apparel, beauty and other sectors this year, which may be a win for the fashion industry but a loss for the environment. How? The increasing number of fast-fashion sales is leading to even bigger volumes of textile waste, as the planet's landfills become a fashion dumping ground. Studies have shown that the majority of women wear an item seven times before throwing it out and buying something new, as labels encourage shoppers to buy the latest street trends before they are gone. It should come as little surprise that clothing production exceeds 100 billion pieces annually, but it remains shocking that the majority of these items end up in the trash.

Which is why Greenpeace has called a timeout for fast-fashion in its newest campaign 'Buy Nothing Day.' "It is hard to resist the allure of a good bargain, but fast fashion means we’re consuming and trashing fashion at a higher rate than our planet can handle," warns Kirsten Brodde, head of Greenpeace’s Detox my Fashion campaign.The life cycle of consumer goods has shortened by 50 percent between 1992 and 2002, which sees consumers discarding garments at an alarming pace - a recent report from the organisation shows that Hong Kong residents throw away the equivalent of 1400 t-shirts a minute.

Just let that sink in a second. 1400 t-shirts a second. As someone who knows how many resources, how many hours, how many hands and how many livelihoods are linked to the production of a single t-shirt, the mere thought of this amount of fashion waste is absolutely terrifying. A better alternative would be fashion recycling - but second hand apparel markets are more than overloaded with our cheap unwanted clothes. Plus, both mechanical and technical fibre recycling are nowhere near the scale they need to be to handle the fast-fashion industry's needs.

Greenpeace argues that the only solution left is for consumers to reduce their levels of consumption, which could be as simple as taking a break from shopping on Black Friday or making do with you have for longer. But I am afraid things are much more complex than that. I am by no means a fully-fledged shopping addict, but even I find it hard to ignore the lure of the fashion siren - even with my insider's knowledge. We decide in a split second whether or not we are going to make a fashion purchase and in that instant our bodies are flushed with a rush of happy feelings. What's more, it not just the purchase that satisfies these positive feelings, as most shoppers can agree, it's the thrill of the search, the bargain hunt, which can be just as rewarding.

Asking shoppers to give up that feeling in a world which seems to standing at an apex may just be too difficult, especially for those who are unable to buy their dream house or car, but may be able to buy that designer handbag on their wish list once it goes on sale. Instead of just urging shoppers to buy less, Greenpeace, as well as other organisations trying to make a difference in a capitalistic world, may try working together with the fashion industry to create a new system, one which is not only driven by monetary values, but environmental and emotional ones as well.

However, until terms such as sustainable fashion and ethical fashion become the new norms, consumers (myself included) need to act as the vessels for change by putting down our credit cards and turning up our noses at events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Photos: Courtesy of Greenpeace Media

Black Friday
Buy Nothing Day
Cyber Monday