SINGAPORE: These are objects Singaporeans can get extra cheaply now than 10 years in the past.
In reality, clothes costs have fallen to their lowest in a decade, in accordance with the Client Value Index for final yr — because of an explosion of shops, together with Zalora and Pomelo, competing on on-line platforms since 2010.
With costs going from as little as S$3 to S$15 for fashionable garments, Singapore’s e-commerce income from attire and footwear jumped greater than eightfold between 2016 and final yr, from S$52 million to S$442 million.
However quick vogue comes at a value: The style trade launched 2.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in 2018, in accordance with McKinsey — greater than the airline and delivery industries mixed (900 million and 1.1 billion tonnes respectively).
Is there a contented steadiness between discount looking and saving the surroundings? Or is the price of low-cost vogue higher than individuals anticipate? The programme Speaking Level investigates.
IT’S THE SUPPLY CHAIN
One think about quick vogue’s costs is quantity of manufacturing. Some “mega” e-commerce retailers can launch between 500 and 1,000 objects per class each week, stated MDIS Faculty of Trend and Design lecturer Kae Hana.
A prime might be designed, produced and marketed so shortly that e-commerce has made vogue go even quicker, “and it’s now referred to as ultra-fast vogue”.
On this enterprise mannequin, retailers first discover a trending type and create designs in small batches to check demand. If enough demand arises, extra of these profitable designs are produced to seize gross sales.
This may be carried out in double-quick time due to vertical integration within the provide chain. “(These e-commerce gamers) personal the manufacturing firms … the material dyers (and) the logistics firms,” she cited.
This course of, from idea to gross sales, takes as quick as two weeks or much less. And with customers “internationally”, the extra an merchandise is produced, “the cheaper it will get”.
The style trade’s lengthy provide chain, nonetheless, is a purpose for its excessive carbon emissions, stated Chu Wong, the nation co-ordinator of Trend Revolution Singapore.
“It begins with the agricultural and the petrochemical industries for the uncooked supplies. It goes on into the manufacturing trade for the fibres to be was materials and ultimately into clothes,” she stated.
“It touches the packaging trade (and) logistics trade. Finally, it will get to the retail trade and to us.”
The low costs additionally result in overconsumption and overproduction, she stated. “Low-cost vogue tempts us as customers to buy extra due to the accessibility, and so extra is produced. And that’s what makes low-cost vogue so harmful.”
She added that artificial fibres, similar to acrylic and nylon, are sometimes used “as a result of they’re cheaper” than pure ones. However they “have the next carbon footprint” — the extraction course of “may be very energy-intensive” as they’re oil-based fibres.
ECO-FRIENDLY AND INEXPENSIVE?
The extra sustainable choices embody materials similar to recycled polyester and Tencel. The latter is derived from wooden pulp, often from the eucalyptus tree.
However customers can do greater than take a look at the material to learn how sustainably produced an merchandise of clothes is, suggested Susannah Jaffer, the founding father of on-line platform Zerrin, which curates choices in sustainable vogue.
“Pure supplies, like linen, Tencel (and) bamboo, are undoubtedly extra sustainable … as a result of (they’re) biodegradable (on the) end-of-life,” she stated.
“However you have to go a bit bit deeper … learn labels, do analysis on manufacturers. Additionally, take a look at how a lot info they’re sharing.”
Sustainable clothes isn’t all that higher for the surroundings both. For instance, recycled polyester is constituted of recycled plastic and polyethylene terephthalate bottles however isn’t biodegradable, she cited.
“In relation to natural cotton, it makes use of much less pesticides when it’s produced. Nevertheless, it nonetheless takes 2,700 litres of water to provide an natural cotton T-shirt … the identical as it could a standard cotton T-shirt,” she added.
“That’s greater than we’d drink in two and a half years.”
Often, sustainable garments are costlier owing to their manufacturing strategies and are produced in fewer numbers than these constituted of extra typical materials.
And that greater price is the principle barrier stopping Singaporeans from shopping for sustainable garments, in accordance with a DBS “aware vogue” survey in 2019.
Jaffer stated many fast-fashion manufacturers are capable of produce cheaper garments of their “sustainable capsule collections” as a result of they nonetheless produce “over 90 per cent of their collections by way of the normal fast-fashion mannequin”.
“It’s not potential (to have sustainable vogue at low-cost costs) as a result of you need to take into consideration the extra prices of manufacturing, for higher high quality supplies,” she added. “That would price (sustainable manufacturers) 50 per cent, 60 per cent extra.”
COST VS QUALITY
Regardless of the upper value tags, garments constituted of sustainable supplies are sometimes more cost effective in the long term.
When Speaking Level put garments constituted of completely different materials — together with bamboo, cotton, linen, polyester and Tencel — by way of washing, consolation and sturdiness checks, Tencel garments retained their colors and shapes higher after 30 washes, in comparison with cotton and polyester garments.
Low-cost garments are appropriate for short-term put on, after which many Singaporeans would donate or discard them.
In keeping with a CNA report in 2018, nonetheless, solely about 10 per cent of the garments given to the Salvation Military, for instance, are bought in its thrift outlets, whereas the remaining 90 per cent are exported.
Daro Tan, a supervisor at SNI Buying and selling, which has been exporting second-hand textiles for greater than 10 years, stated lots of the garments it receives go primarily to nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and South Africa.
He stated exporting used clothes for reuse is extra appropriate than recycling, as each bit of clothes could comprise many supplies, making recycling “too time-consuming” and manpower-intensive.
Import restrictions in different nations, nonetheless, are making issues harder for his firm. These nations, he stated, wish to concentrate on their home clothes industries as an alternative of relying on imports.
Since 2018, tighter import restrictions have led to a 40 per cent drop in Singapore’s second-hand clothes exports. In 2019, of the 168,000 tonnes of textile and leather-based waste generated right here, solely 4 per cent was recycled, i.e. exported.
The remainder ended up being incinerated. “It’s actually an enormous waste,” stated Tan.
So what might be carried out to unravel the issue of shopping for and throwing away low-cost clothes to the detriment of the surroundings?
“Maybe much less is extra,” stated Speaking Level host Sharda Harrison, who created 4 completely different appears to be like for herself from the identical black outfit by, for instance, combining it with denims and completely different equipment.
“With a little bit of creativity, I can change up my type with garments I have already got and do my little half in saving our planet.”
Watch this episode of Speaking Level right here. The programme airs on Channel 5 each Thursday at 9.30pm.