OPEN THREAD : Where does all of that unwanted clothing go?
Every week Vanessa Friedman, The Time's fashion director, answers readers fashion related questions in the Open Thread newsletter.

''This morning Amazon search for ''Women's Tops'' yielded 20,000 listings over 400 pages. That does not even consider the millions of articles of clothing in hundreds of thousands of mass-market department stores that sell online and in shops.

It obviously requires resources to manufacture these goods. Yes, some might be sold to off-price retailers afterward, but then what happens? Are they just destroyed? And what can we as consumers do try to ''force'' manufacturers to be more responsible?'' Janet, Long Island, New York.

Fashion has woken up, dramatically, to the climate-crisis and to the industry's role in the problem. To be fair, the conversation began percolating, a decade ago, but it only reached critical mass - and the public - recently.

That's for both the high and low-end, from LVMH and Kering to H&M and C&A.

But it is also true that most of the efforts - and the conversations - have been focused on the truth on the birth of garments : the chemicals used in processing, the carbon emissions from the factories and shipping and so on.

Though there have been some moves to address the issue of end-life of a garment, with brands like H&M and Eileen Fisher taking back their own clothes [and sometimes others] for recycling or reuse, many clothes simple can't be recycled. [The fibers can't be disaggregated].

There are other promising developments. Paris passed a law last year that forbids burning of excess product, and in the city's couture shows last week, upcycling became a trend. Still, that addresses only a bit of the problem.

According to OVH Corp's 2018 Corporate Responsibility report, less than 1 percent of materials used in clothing is later recycled into clothing - a loss in values at more than $100 billion a year.

We assuage our guilty conscience with resale, but it's only a fraction of what what is bought new, and donated to charities that send old clothes overseas, though increasingly other countries don't want them.

Than it all ends up in a landfill.

The elephant in the room - the thing no fashion brand wants to talk about - is the fact that if companies continue to make the amount of product they make, and develop ever more innovative ways to sell more things to more people [because that is, effectively, the business model], there is no real way to solve the problem.

If consumers want to force the subject, the way to do it is very, very simple : Buy less. Businesses and brands are motivated, ultimately, by sales [though the environment is starting to play a role - see Larry Fink and BlackRock], and the last thing they want is a lot of excess stock.

Then think more about what you are buying, buy products that are made to last, and take care of them.

They will be more expensive, but if you add up all of the tiny amounts of money you spend on so many, many T-shorts that shrink or fall apart after a few washings, and put that entire amount toward one shirt made with thicker cotton and very tight seams, my guess is you'll come out even.

The World Students Society thanks Vanessa Friedman.


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