So Birmingham was out in force this morning to celebrate the opening of ‘the world’s largest Primark’ store, ignoring Birmingham’s inferiority complex for a moment, let’s explore what so called ‘Fast’ fashion is, its real cost and why we should all really should think twice before spending £1.99 on that t-shirt.

We live in a throwaway culture, relentlessly marketed the latest looks, the next ‘must have’, but have you given any thought to what the real cost of that £1.99 t-shirt is, how and who made it and what happens once you’ve thrown it away after a few wears and a couple of years stuffed in a drawer?

There are 80billion new clothing items produced globally every year, compare that with the 300,000 million tons of garments a year that end up in landfill in the UK alone, our fastest growing waste category. Even a high proportion of the clothes we donate to charity shops end up in landfill. Our throwaway culture means that the global fashion industry generates 1.2bn tons of greenhouse emissions a year! No, that’s not a meaningless statistic and yes, that is a lot of C02. There are many other facets of clothing production that degrade our environment and combine to create the truly toxic ‘fast’ fashion culture – a full breakdown can be found here (It’s truly a shocking and saddening read – do come back though).

So the reality is the t-shirt costs a lot more than the £1.99 we pay, but we rarely see the environmental damage associated with the global fashion industry – although you can probably feel the effects each passing season!

Also, have a think about the exploitative nature of the global fashion industry, you probably remember the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, 1,100 people died. There was a global outcry over the Dickensian working conditions the mostly female workforce had to endure. If you thought things had improved for those garment workers after our collective look in the mirror, look again, many of the global fashion brands whose business models drive ‘fast’ fashion, use an opaque global supply chain that often ends up subcontracting to factories of an ever-decreasing standard. Six years later workers in Bangladesh still report earning barely enough to sustain themselves and their families, often living in debt and still starving – while working hours that are illegal in Europe!   That’s a sweatshop to you and me.

And finally, is Primark’s new store really a good investment for the city? Thinking about the principles of localisation, it fails on every level as a sound investment to create a stable and thriving local economy – globally sourced products instead of local production, corporate profits leaving the city and not being re-invested locally and of course the hundreds of low paying retail jobs that leave employees with barely enough to live on, let alone to re-invest their disposable income in the local economy. Only 15 months ago Primark hit the headlines after being named and shamed by the UK government for essentially paying its staff below minimum wage after they were expected to buy their own uniforms.

Buying Junk Fashion is just like eating Junk Food, you get the sugar rush of satisfaction but are never really nutritionally satisfied. So no one’s saying we should all walk around naked, however we recommend a healthier fashion fix by shopping for durable clothing as a long term investment, repairing what you have, clothes swapping and buying vintage items. Most importantly buy less Junk and invest in your local retailers…

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@wearecow Ethical vintage & handmade clothing

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@disorderbrand British Designed/Made, Ethical Fashion Label/Unique Boutique, Art Gallery, Ethical Anti-Globalization Blog