In previous articles from this week, we have read about the fast fashion industry's impact on people and the environment, and how slow fashion is the future. Aja Barber - journalist, stylist and author of the book "Consumed: The Need for Collective Change" - is convinced that all consumers bear a responsibility for the injustices created by the fashion industry.
- When I stopped buying fast fashion, it was because I felt I was wasting my money. I was really annoyed with myself.
Aja Barber talks about how she fully participated in the consumption of fast fashion before she realized how much injustice was behind the clothes she bought in the shops.
Today, she educates consumers and companies about how colonialism, climate change and consumption patterns are connected - and about how we as consumers have a responsibility. According to her, the responsibility does not lie either with governments and companies or with individuals, but with everyone.
- We know that we buy more clothes than we have ever done before, which is completely unnecessary, but that desire has definitely been created by companies. Companies need to be regulated, and governments need to step in and take responsibility. But we consumers must also realize that we do not have to participate in the system just because it is offered to us, says Aja Barber.
When it comes to individual responsibility, the movement for sustainable sustainable fashion is often criticized on the grounds that fast fashion is the only thing that low-income earners have the opportunity to buy - and that we should therefore not blame individuals for something that is actually a system error.
However, Barber is very critical of that argument, and says that it usually comes from people who are not limited in their possibilities, and who use the argument to be able to continue buying the clothes themselves.
- It is not the poor who make these companies survive. They are not the ones who buy 68 garments per year and make "SHEIN hauls" on TikTok, says Barber and refers to the trend where individuals in a purchase buy garments for several thousand kronor from the low-price brand SHEIN to show and review them for their followers . She continues:
- We have to be honest in the discussion about fast fashion.
The number 68 refers to the number of garments per year that the average fast fashion consumer buys in the United States. In Sweden, the same figure is on 50 garments per year. Aja Barber also emphasizes that in the long run fast fashion is more expensive than actually buying quality clothes from companies that are more ethical.
- When I bought fast fashion, I spent money I did not have on clothes I did not need. I used to be one of those people who said I could not afford sustainable brands, but it turned out that I certainly could afford it - I just needed to stop buying things I did not need and stop chasing every trend.
The fast fashion industry is an example of global injustice and a form of neo-colonialism, according to Aja Barber. It is not only the production of clothing that is dependent on labor and resources from developing countries, but also the end of the chain.
- Every year, 100 billion garments are produced, which is just over twelve times more than the entire world's population. Then we understand that we can not keep all the clothes we buy, but they are donated with a good idea behind. But the amount of clothes means that the majority are not sold, but instead shipped to countries in Africa.
One of the countries is Ghana, where the world's largest market for second-hand clothes is located. Every week the country receives 15 million garments from Europe, USA and Australia. Many of the clothes are broken and dirty, and up to 40 percent of the clothes end up directly in the country's landfills. Massive piles of clothes burn up and poison the air, or become rubbish on the beaches and in the oceans.
- There is a perception that people in developing countries are happy with our old clothes that we would never give to a friend. But it is not true. If no one in the global north wants them, why in the world would anyone in the global south want them ?, Aja Barber asks herself.
Despite all the new garments we buy, a survey from 2018 showed that 28 percent experience frustration when they open their closet, and 60 percent use less than half of the clothes they have at home. In addition, research shows that Shopping does not make us happier than for just at the moment, so in the long run no one seems to be winning on the current system.
Aja Barber is convinced that we consumers can and should take back our power.
- We must change our culture, the one that says we must buy new clothes constantly. It is a narrative that everyone can challenge, regardless of class affiliation. And if you only want to do one thing, it is to buy smaller clothes.