A while back I read the book Sustainable Fashion: Why Now? – a book on technologies, methodologies and practices to developing a sustainable clothing. I can’t use word industry because the book advocates abandoning the contemporary industry’s producer-consumer approach to solve problems.
It was interesting to learn about the clothing and fashion before the advent of industrial age. Resources like fiber were scarce; people spun the fibers and wove clothes in families and communities. Clothes were reused heavily. Damaged clothes would be re-purposed as another garment or in worst case used as cleaning rags. Thus the life span of the fabric increased. In essence all the garmenting was done by the users.
With the advent of industrial age, the process user production of garments was disrupted. Industrialization of fabric and garment production caused the supply to outstrip demand. It changed the framework of garment production to a producer-consumer linear model. In the new framework, if there is a need for a product, then a producer gathers raw materials, processes it and floods the consumer market. So we consume more clothing than we need. Unused clothing ends up in landfill instead of being recycled like pre-industrial age.
Many solutions to reduce fabric waste and improving recycling are discussed in the book. Fashion was very democratic. It was defined by users who wore the garments, and reused it heavily. Industrialization disrupted this model. Now we have fashion designers and trend setters to define the fashion.