Online shopping secrets that will make you reconsider shopping altogether
We need to talk
I didn't enter the fashion industry to promote environmentalism. But with the wider conversation going on in regards to the industry's toxic practices, it's becoming increasingly evident that my role moving forward must be focused on (a) acknowledging how damaging fashion inherently has been on the planet and (b) keeping myself and others more accountable for our actions.
One of the biggest concerns of Covid-19 for fashion has been the migration of brands selling in physical retail stores to ecommerce platforms, and sustainability has also been brought up more frequently and more urgently. It's a long overdue conversation to be had (and honestly, we're all guilty of avoiding it), from production and supply chain management, all the way to us as consumers constantly buying what we don't need.
While utopic sustainability moves forward with unanimous system changes, ownership of our roles as consumers first is key. In a 2019 SHOWStudio and Fashion Revolution panel discussion on the environmental impact of fashion week, buying director of Machine-A Stavros Karelis said, "Fashion is like politics. The power is in people, not brands or corporations."
As we're stuck at home with itchy fingers, contemplating whether to use that 40% off voucher that's been sitting in our inboxes, here are some online shopping facts that you should know first.
The more you visit some websites, the more expensive the clothes can get
It's no secret that cab prices surge around peak hours and public holidays. This business model obeys demand and supply 101, and we as consumers have generally accepted that if prices rise for one, it should rise for everyone else too. However, as technology around data collection increases, the demand and supply model has become increasingly personalised, so that your online footprint can potentially alter how much you pay for clothes, i.e. how many times you've clicked on an item or searched it on social media (especially if brands have partnered with the platforms). This has already become mainstay in giant information retentive companies like Amazon. While Coke's temperature-based soda price vending machine backfired when they tested them, increasing interconnectivity among digital channels will probably find less obvious ways to access what we're more willing to buy.
When you return clothes, they don't always go back where they came from.
Especially for those of us unfamiliar with our body measurements or are interesting in shopping from new brands online, it may seem more time-effective to buy clothes in up to three sizes and return two of them. With complimentary shipping and returns, it's no harm no foul-right? Reality: the logistics of repairing faulty garments and repackaging disheveled products are too hands-on for big retailers that they're usually removed from main sales and consigned off to discount stores or worse, sent to landfills! As more brands and consumers are integrating ecommerce platforms to sell, innovation within the delivery logistics and size measurement/conversion space (to increase buying accuracy) needs to be racked up significantly to combat the unnecessary waste accumulated from poor management and translating fashion language digitally.
Imagine flying overseas every time you shopped — that's delivery
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world (although the ranking differs over various sources), and that's not just from the production of textiles and garments. Covid-19 is pressuring brands to move to ecommerce as the new normal, but that could easily rack up our carbon footprint, i.e. the amount of carbon dioxide as bi-product of any process, through packing garments, shipping them worldwide, and transporting them to our doorsteps. Fashion already notoriously emits more carbon than aviation and shipping combined, making it more volatile when movement grows exponentially. The rise of free/fast shipping means that space efficiency in transport vehicles are sacrificed for speed. We should really consider that what we don't pay now will accumulate as bills for later.
There's little to no transparency in most fashion sustainability initiatives
For many years, Stella McCartney was lauded for being fashion's "sustainable" hero, but it insidiously revealed in comparison that everyone else was doing nothing. Sustainable fashion conjured stereotypes of hippies in tunics and sandals made of frail, natural fabrics that could "rot" like actual food. Today, even the most sinfully luxurious fashion houses have incorporated some environmental initiative into their CSR. But skeptics are probably correct in guessing much of what these brands are doing mean little to nothing for the earth. For instance, calling oneself "carbon neutral" means that for every unit of carbon a brand produces, it will "offset" its pollution caused by donating to an environmental cause. Similarly, starting a "conscious" collection while the rest of your brand is grossly toxic. While something is better than nothing, sustainability should be seen as a culture, not trade-off for bad behaviour.
Burning deadstock and landfills are still huge problems in fashion
Luxury brands have strict policies around retaining brand identity, and that's not just in their marketing. Last year, Burberry admitted to its practice of burning deadstock, or excess product left on shelves at the end of the shopping season. Burning would reduce the possibility of their brand landing in discount stores and in the hands of people unwilling/unable to pay full price. Thus, diluting the exclusivity of the brand. Not only is burning very air polluting, it destroys garments, which have already undergone severely unsustainable production, from being upcycled. While brands are starting to implement more environmentally-friendly measures into their curriculum, a holistic approach to improvement would ultimately be preferred to championing an eco-product line in an overall environmentally unfriendly business.