At BULK a lot of why we do what we do is to help reduce the insane amounts of clothing that gets sent to landfill. Around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing ends up in landfill every year in the UK alone - imagine what the number is worldwide! According to keepbritaintidy.org, around 10,000 items of clothing are being sent to landfill EVERY 5 MINUTES, per year. We love fashion and clothing, but we don’t want to keep contributing to the masses of waste product the industry creates. Buying and selling second hand gives people the chance to find something they’re into without having to rely on fast fashion to supply it. As well as the environmental chaos fast fashion is wreaking on our planet, the social issues that come with it are equally as disturbing. Capitalism and the worlds obsession with profits have led to a massive rise in outsourcing in clothing production. People across the world are paid wages that are barley liveable and supply brands that make huge profits every year. What we now call sweatshops resemble workhouses from the Victorian era but the demand for cheap yet fashion forward shopping makes it easy to turn a blind eye.
Fast fashion has always existed in modern life but as consumerism has evolved so has the demand for fleeting fashion trends. It seems like a pretty new concept but fast fashion is a term that came about as a way describe the long evolution of the fashion and retail industry. Its basic meaning is pretty self-explanatory, the lifespan of a garment goes through its design phase and onto the market extremely quickly so that a brand can keep up with the everchanging forecasts. The term was coined in response to 90’s high-street brands like ZARA having a speedy turnover when it came to making cheap ready to wear clothing that reflected high end trends. In many ways it made fashion more accessible but it came with a detrimental social impact. To get to the bottom of fast fashion we have to dig pretty far back in history.
HOW IT STARTED...
Before the 1800’s, fashion was quite literally, slow - It took a long time to make a piece of clothing by hand. During the Industrial Revolution in the late 17-1800’s, the textile industry gained momentum as machines began to churn out more material at a much faster rate in comparison to manual weaving (by hand). This industry became the single most important source of income in Britain during the Victorian era. The introduction of textile machinery led to the ability to make clothing quickly whilst also ensuring factory owners could keep their outgoings in check. By relying on less employees and paying them as little as possible all whilst creating more stock than ever, factory owners saw results in the form of big profits. The invention of the sewing machine in 1846 meant that the price of clothing fell which made it more accessible. It’s also worth mentioning at this point that many low-income families made their own garments because wages were extremely low, especially for women and children. Despite this, advancement in technology and the development of new, cheaper fabrics aided the push towards cheaper factory-made clothing. This was the beginning of clothing manufacturing on an industrial scale and from here demand would only rise. Britain’s ability to dominate the textile industry came from a place of control and so when countries like India gained their independence from the British Empire, the exportation of materials such as cotton depleted and the industry began to suffer as countries relied less heavily on Britain’s input. By the 1950’s Britain’s textile prices couldn’t compete on an international level and the number of imports overtook export amounts.
The iconic shift into 60’s fashion meant high streets and clothing brands were constantly changing and adapting. Social changes were hugely reflected in fashion and a new market for the younger generation opened up. In the 1950’s the fashion industry was dominated by the high-end fashion houses of Paris but a demand for a fresh place to shop that would turn its back on the prudish 1950’s attire was brewing. Designers like Mary Quant led this movement in the UK with high street stores opening to cater towards the swift changes of the swinging 60’s. The high-street offered a place for people to shop outside of the conforming department stores and a place to be involved in fashion without being part of the fashionable elite. The popularity of man-made fabrics meant clothing could be made cheaply and so begins the chain of supply and demand. Whilst UK based textiles factories did exist and continue to function throughout the 1960’s, the sudden need for cheaply made clothing to keep up with sales pushed brands to seek cheaper textile suppliers. As more and more international textiles mills began operating, more brands looked to them to supply their businesses and lessen their expense.
HOW IT'S GOING...
The 21st century brought a real change to what we now call ‘fast fashion’. The early 2000’s saw the successes of high-street brands like Topshop and H&M and the introduction of online shopping accelerated sales even further. Fast fashion brands grow more profitable by the day because everyone wants to keep on top of trends whilst spending as little as possible. Outsourcing from factories that rely on cheap labour to function allows companies to sell ready to wear clothes for next to nothing. It might be good for our wallets but its impact is devastating on the environment and people’s lives. The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that occurred in Bangladesh is a modern-day example of when profit is valued more than people where 1,134 people lost their lives after being forced to work in an unsafe building. The event shocked people around the world and had people questioning where their clothes might have come from. Today we can buy a brand-new outfit for £10 or less, wear it once then throw out, that’s why we feel it’s so important to understand the positive impact reselling and buying second hand has. The popularity of reselling pre-loved clothes gained huge momentum in the last few years which is a really positive thing, DEPOP being a prime example.
WHERE WE COME IN!
As a second hand and vintage wholesaler, at BULK we honestly believe that pre-loved clothing is the way forward. The incessant need for new clothing is having serious negative effects on us all, desperate to keep up with the changes in fashion and do it on the cheap. Social media plays a huge role in this, with influencers offering discounts on already heavily discounted clothing that we might wear once then discard when something more on trend comes along. Companies like ‘Primark’ and ‘Shein’ offer ridiculously low prices on all things from household to beauty products which in many ways make shopping accessible, but it’s also led us to take our clothes for granted and see them not as an investment but an easily disposable product. The reality is that fashion always comes full circle and high street brands take inspiration from vintage styles, that’s why we’re so passionate about the stuff we sell. Buying second-hand clothing is such an easy way to reduce our carbon footprint, it can help us start appreciating our own individual styles and sticks it to the fast fashion fat cats churning out hundreds of millions of tons of waste each year AND it’s boosting local economies by helping to create fab indie businesses.
In a perfect world everyone would be walking around in clothes saved from landfill but for now BULK is happy to supply all of the heat to resellers across the world who are doing their bit!