Sunday 28 May 2017

Detox your wardrobe!

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

We're paying too high a price for our cheap and cheerful style.

Ladies: Want to know how to lose four and half stone instantly using only a bin liner? Forget Atkins, South Beach or the Cabbage Soup Diet -- try the 'Wardrobe Detox' instead.

The average Irish woman accumulates around 62lb in fashion flab every year, according to a new book on the rise of 'fast fashion' -- cut-cost high-street versions of celebrity looks.

And husbands, look away now -- over the course of a lifetime, she also spends an estimated €150,000 on fashion, 10% of which she'll never wear.

"You wouldn't believe some of the rubbish in my wardrobe," admits Lucy Siegle, author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

Buttressed by a global market churning out 80 billion garments a year, fashion followers now buy four times as many clothes as they did in 1980 -- yet spend a fraction of the cost thanks to the likes of Penneys and H&M.

"We're no longer just interested in what Angelina Jolie wears on the red carpet," adds environmental journalist Siegle, a regular on the BBC's The One Show. "We want to know what she wears to the supermarket too."

Despite having more clothes than ever before, today's fashionistas have less personal style argues Siegle.

"Very few of us have anything in our wardrobe that's worth passing on to our daughters," she adds. "What daughter's going to want a pair of hand-me-down jeggings in years to come?"

Not that today's threads would survive that long -- research indicates women are now chucking as much clothes as they accumulate each year.

"Over the New Year, we took in 60 black bags stuffed with clothes in just two days," says Samantha McGarry, manager of the Oxfam charity store in Rathfarnham, Dublin.

"The common complaint among female customers is that they have too much stuff and not enough space," adds Olive Donovan of Howards Storage World in Carrickmines, Dublin.

"One woman in her sixties came in last week looking for storage for 180 pairs of shoes."

But while countless statistics have tallied the effects of disposable duds on women's wallets, the true cost could be much higher warns Siegle.

In To Die For, she questions the ethical impact of constantly being en vogue -- including the thorny subject of sweat shops where workers are reportedly paid as little as £1 for back-breaking 15-hour shifts.

"We've managed to divorce fashion from responsibility," says Siegle. "In every other area, consumers are starting to think about the provenance of the things we buy.

"For instance, we understand that eggs don't just magically appear in a box on the supermarket shelf. With fashion however, we seem happy to believe that it just appears on the rail."

"Call it 'Cheap Chic' or 'Thrift Luxe', suddenly it's cool to be cheap," agrees Dublin stylist Georgina Heffernan of The Glitter Magpie blog.

Lured by the latest lookalike 'It Bag' for a tenner though, do Irish fashion slaves really care about fashion's true victims?

"I think women are starting to wake up to the message in the book -- which is that you don't have to dress in a certain way because H&M tells you to," concludes Siegle.

"Socially conscious labels like Edun and People Tree are taking off, clothes swap parties have become popular and there's a growing 'make do and mend' attitude.

"Meanwhile, fashion glossies have started running pieces on how to reuse last year's clothes -- something no editor would have even considered five years ago.

"So there's a real kernel of hope that the consumer is slowly starting to take her foot off the gas."

"Fashion is something that's supposed to make you feel good about yourself -- but not at the expense of someone else," adds The Glitter Magpie's Georgina Heffernan.

"If you think that adorable €15 maxi dress is too good to be true, it probably is."

To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle (€14.99) is out now

Irish Independent

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