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Fast fashion needs to slow down

Kenzie Jennings-Gruar
Fast fashion shops in Cashel Street, central Christchurch.  Mckenzie Jennings

Local designers and retailers take aim at wasteful fashion industry.

A clothing designer, an upcycler and a recycled clothing retailer are calling on big fashion retailers to curb textiles wastage.

A 2018 Christchurch City Council waste audit showed 5.57 percent of the 114,833 tonnes of waste disposed was clothing and textiles. That's 6396 tonnes, just in Christchurch. 

With the New Zealand fashion industry reportedly worth more than $43 billion, it's time the big stores invest in sustainable practice, say locals in the trade.

Local designer and owner of 6x4, Steven Park, said the clothing industry needed to be more willing to change. 

Park said the city council should regulate large scale clothing businesses and require them to be ethical producers.

He was disappointed when multinational clothing-retail company H&M came to town. 

"Seeing a company like H&M come in, when people are aware of how big of an issue it is, is disappointing."

H&M introduced in-store garment collecting textile boxes in 2010, with a goal of using only recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. 

The franchise's website said "At H&M group we believe it's senseless that so many clothes and discarded textiles end up in landfill and upcycling and recycling are two of many ways to fulfil our goals towards a more sustainable fashion future."   

But Park said having textile bins was just "greenwashing".

He said the textile bins "just encourages people to buy more".

Recycle Boutique employee Bailey Stone agreed. "They are just doing it to make people feel better about shopping there."

She said Christchurch was swamped with fast-fashion stores.

"People just aren't educated enough and they don't know where to go [to shop second-hand] so they just stick to the easier option which is fast fashion stores." 

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu held an event to raise awareness of the issue. KowTow Clothing owner Gosia Piatek and local designers Paige Jensen and Steven Parks spoke at the event.

Park said the event was successful in educating people and it is something we must do more of. "People need to start learning and addressing the issue." He said 

Cathryn Allwood, who owns a upcycled clothing business Wasted Threads, said the fashion industry needed to be more transparent.

"There needs to be more awareness and stricter measures around fast fashion stores."

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu 'Fashionably Late' event

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu held the 'Fashionably late' event on the 12th of May 2021