Black Desires – The Courier

On Black Friday, as in the rest of the year, the best bargain is to ask yourself if you really need to buy the coveted product. The idea will also be displayed this Friday in around 80 Swiss (German-speaking) stores on the alternative Colorful Friday. His motto resonates particularly strongly in the field of fashion: in twenty years, the clothing industry has generated such a consumption frenzy that the number of garments produced has quadrupled. With catastrophic, environmental and social consequences, which an exciting round table wanted to dissect last Thursday in Geneva.

last engine fast fashion (fast mode), the Chinese giant Shein is going full steam ahead on the Web, relegating Zara, H&M and other GAPs to the category of outdated challengers. Its estimated revenue of 15.7 billion dollars would have increased eight times between 2018 and 2021, according to Géraldine Viret, spokeswoman for the NGO Public Eye, which dedicated two surveys to the newcomer.

A company with 100% virtual sales but managing a very concrete empire, which puts an immense network of micro-workshops, where there are no unions, at the service of an insane catalog of 250,000 products and a more aggressive sales method. Every day more than 6,000 new offers delight customers and invite them to continually renew their wardrobe.

intensive marketing

The recipe for success obviously goes through social networks, where fashion is experienced in a playful way, where the act of buying is prompted by ridiculously low prices, myriads of influencers and influencers constantly renewed, and dark patterns, those manipulative interfaces that make a subscription or immediate purchase “indispensable”. We tried, we traded as a community, and we hoarded tons of rarely worn clothing.

In Switzerland, “forty percent of clothes bought are never or almost never worn,” says Jeanne von Segesser, creator and coordinator of the Fashion Revolution movement in French-speaking Switzerland. Impulse purchases, but also incorrect sizes and expensive or complicated returns, which turn our dressing rooms into temporary overproduction dumps.

An aberration when you know that it took 2,720 liters of water to make the smallest cotton T-shirt. “This corresponds to our drinking water consumption for three years!” illustrates the founder of ethical fashion brand Apesigned.

“There is enormous pressure on young people to never wear the same item of clothing twice”, testifies Méline, a 17-year-old student, author of a book on the subject. “We’re all worried, we all buy clothes without knowing who makes them or how,” notes Von Segesser.

O fast fashion it’s not free, someone pays the price» Jeanne von Segesser

Nor what happens downstream of the millions of tons of clothes dumped annually in the countries of the South, destroying local handicrafts or industry. Or, given their low durability, they end up in open dumps. “Switzerland exports three quarters of its environmental footprint, for fashion we should be around 96-98%,” explains Anja Imobersteg, project manager at Swiss Fair Trade.

Child labor

The consequences of fast fashion they are also social, as the method requires ridiculous prices. For the approximately 60 to 70 million workers in the textile industry, this implies average incomes that do not allow them to reach the subsistence minimum. It must be said that the worker – and more often the worker – pockets on average less than 1% of the price paid in the store.

As for child labor, it is developing again. About 3 million children would be affected, according to Imobersteg. Not only in Asia, but also in eastern countries. “O made in europe it is not a guarantee of justice”, he warns. “Consumers should know that the fast fashion it’s not free, someone pays the price”, sums up Jeanne von Segesser.

Alternatives

Faced with this trap, buyers have little choice but to slow down their consumption. “At Claro, we only offer clothes for two seasons. We work with natural fibers and these need time to grow”, invokes the director of the fair trade importer, Marie-Claire Pellerin. ONE super slow fashion which doesn’t prevent, according to her, from “playing daily with the look” thanks to “some jewelry or accessories”.

More broadly, Claro’s boss defends a revaluation of the link between consumers and artisans, which makes possible the commercialization of socially and ecologically thought out and controlled products, without excess stock, and insists on the need for total control of the channels.

This is also the opinion of Fashion Revolution, which defends “transparency and true ethics”, as a response to green wash or niche products introduced by brands just to restore their image, according to Jeanne von Segesser. “Even Shein is now in social and environmental communication, he is so cynical when you know the business model …” is in despair Géraldine Viret.

laws and labels

Skeptical, national green adviser Isabelle Pasquier-Eichenberger notes that a third of clothing trade is now done online. Difficult “for fair corner trade to reverse the trend”. The former secretary of the Fédération Romande des Consommateurs bets more on fair trade “labels” affixed to mass-market products, as well as on the reform of the legislative framework. Limiting returns, supporting the circular economy, fighting dark patternscontrol of the encumbrances and the second-hand clothing sector (read below): there is no shortage of ideas, but the federal political majority does not want them, underlines the Geneva elected official.

Here, hope would come from the European Union and its draft guideline establishing corporate responsibility throughout the production chain. And a bit at the end of the lake, where the canton’s two large municipalities, Vernier and Geneva, chose to remove shop windows from their streets. A small anti-consumer step that, however, must be confirmed by the Sovereign.

Actions and reward in Geneva

For the third consecutive year, various organizations and public authorities in Geneva are taking advantage of Black Friday to raise public awareness of consumption patterns during “Fair Week”. Its extensive program – round tables, exchanges, tastings, award ceremony, solidarity operation with Peruvian children, etc. – is supported in particular by the umbrella organization Swiss Fair Trade and Magasins du monde and benefits from the support of the cities of Carouge and Geneva.

The latter will also be at the center of the second round table scheduled for Thursday, November 24, as it will receive – as a prelude – the Fair Trade Town distinction, becoming, four years after Carouge, the twentieth city in the country to obtain this title bestowed by the pinnacle of fair trade. After the ceremony, the debate will focus on the complementarity between short circuit trade and fair trade with the South, in the presence of Samuel Poos, author of a study on the subject, Gaëlle Bigler, president of the Fédération romande d’ local contract farming , Gaétan Morel, from Agenda 21 da Cidade, and Lara Baranzini, from Magasins du monde. From 18:30 on GamMAH (promenade from pin 5, 3rd). BPZ

About 14 million items of clothing are thrown away annually by consumers in the United States, or a paltry 80 pounds per person. In Switzerland, the disaster does not reach this magnitude, but we still get rid of more than 6 kilos each. And if we know that almost two thirds of this waste is practically impossible to recycle, not least because it contains synthetic fibers, we can imagine the mountain of waste left by these frenetic purchases. Rags whose petroleum-based threads will have polluted three times: in production, in distribution and then in destruction; 35% of microplastics in the oceans come from textiles, they will take more than two centuries to degrade.

Faced with this increasingly massive phenomenon, the development of the “second-hand” market has a double advantage: extending the useful life of clothes, according to the greenish Isabelle Pasquier-Eichenberger, but also offering an alternative to fashion victims🇧🇷 “For young people, buying second-hand clothes allows them to stay in current dress codes” without endorsing the fast fashionnotes Public Eye spokeswoman Géraldine Viret.

good conscience

Websites and apps, such as Vinted in France, Frippie or Teorem in Switzerland, have understood this and are targeting this clientele. “But the 2nd hand can also give us a clear conscience. We buy so much, but telling ourselves that we can always resell them later,” observes Méline, 17.

More demanding, some initiatives, such as Sipy, defend the exchange or even the rental of clothing, such as Teil.style. But for the time being, the sector is mainly facing the side effects of fast fashion: an immense mass of often low-quality clothing. “It’s impossible to separate everything, most clothes end up in landfills”, warns Jeanne von Segesser of Fashion Revolution. Most of the time after having traveled thousands of kilometers in the containers of specialized companies, as documented by a recent investigation by RTS.

To avoid these channels, it’s important not to choose the wrong trash can. “Deliver clean clothes in good condition directly to associations (CSP, Caritas) that sort and resell them, or deposit them in the social Vestiaire or Texture bins,” advises Ms. von Segesser. That will prevent them, perhaps, from joining the 80% of old European clothes that end up, according to Greenpeace, in the rubbish bins of the South.

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