I’ve spoken of ‘Fashion Saturation’ before - here’s an article I wrote in 2016 - but, now, it’s official.
According to Weight Watchers, Britons hoard £10billion worth of clothes we never wear: 588 million unworn garments are languishing in the nation's wardrobes with women hoarding 365million and men 223million.
Of the 2,000 people polled – 1,000 men and 1,000 women – 25 per cent said they plan to wear their outfits again once they lose the extra pounds they have gained since buying the items.
Okay, I know it’s Weight Watchers, and they obviously see a motivator for people to lose weight is to get into all these unworn clothes, but it’s also a signifier of the wastage and glut of clothes we have in our wardrobes.
Left - Take a leaf out of Joey's book? Maybe this will be a trend to wear as much as possible to get those unworn percentages down
Men reported wearing just 53 per cent of their clothes, with the 47 per cent of unworn items worth £5.1billion. The most commonly unworn garments were T-shirts, jeans and jackets.
One in ten respondents claimed they did not throw out unworn clothes because they were waiting for them to ‘come back into fashion’. That’ll be those bootcut jeans then!
Overall, the £10billion figure breaks down to £200 of unworn clothes per adult in the UK.
People are drowning in stuff. This is why retailers aimed at more mature customers are suffering. The Debenhams, Marks & Spencer’s and House of Frasers of the world.
People have wardrobes full of unworn clothes and adding to this pile is turning many off the idea of relentless consumption.
Retailers aimed at the younger market are doing better - Boohoo, ASOS - as these consumers are still hungry for items and also their mindset is: wear, enjoy, dispose.
The irony is the less space we have, as homes become smaller, we’re using our precious space to store clothes we’ll never wear. Okay, I understand you can’t wear 100% of your wardrobe 100% of the time, but that 47% could easily be reduced to around 15-20%. Things for special occasions or have sentimental value you’ll keep.
Just look at your wardrobe, there’s not enough days in the year to wear the amount we have.
We need to unlearn this idea of ownership and also close the loop on reusing and recycling clothes. We need processes that make clothes’ fibres easily reduced back to their raw state and then reused and those which don’t fit this process, we limit their use. We can’t simply keeping adding to the unworn pile.
Fashion has been saturated for a while now. The industry has accepted this and is trying to accommodate and change while saving face and putting on a positive new one.
We’ve seen a massive growth in retailers offering people choice, both online and offline, since the beginning of this century. Nearly two decades later, people don't need anymore stuff and the want, that seldom matched with the need, especially in fashion terms, has also waned, especially when you feel like you’re not seeing anything new.
How many things in your wardrobe still have the tags on or are in their boxes? You’re not a shopaholic or a hoarder, you’re an average person who has more than they need and is showing the middle aged spread of affordable clothes and easy availabiity.
We’re facing an obesity crisis in our consumption and it’s starting to make people feel gluttonous and suffocated with stuff: baggage, quite literally.
I think the average person could probably go a whole year (okay, easily 6 months) without buying anything new for their wardrobe and outwardly showing it. A retail detox, if you will, which is a cleanse of overconsumption and quantity over quality.
You’d often see people outside of Primark having their Pretty Woman moment with armfuls of brown paper carrier bags, but even that sight seems to be scarcer.
It’s a great thing that people can buy what they want when they want it. Clothes have never been so cheap, but the novelty is over and people are seeking alternatives.
Next recently revealed bad sales figures, which probably means the same for retailers such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams. They cited people spending their money on eating out, travel and experiences and not clothes. Debenhams is focussing more of its shop space on food and restaurants and for good reason and I expect other retailers to follow suit.
Over in America large numbers of department stores are being shut and shopping malls are replacing them with a different mix away from retail.
On another note, people’s houses or living accommodation is getting smaller so there is even less space to store even a regular amount of things.
I’m not sure what the solution is to all of this, but I think technology will play a part and make this all look very last century. Maybe it’s a more disposable, but environmentally conscious one? Drones could deliver newly laundered and ironed clothes that we hire rather than own. It seems so Victorian to wash our clothes, dry them, iron them and waste valuable living space storing them. It’s laborious and time hungry and it could easily be replaced with a new service industry along the lines of Uber or Air BnB.
Maybe it’s a brandless future that just focuses on keeping us covered, protected and warm? The majority of people buy clothes and not fashion anyway and many groups aren’t well catered for at the moment.
I think in the new year we’ll see many brands and retailers contracting or going out of business. A survival of the fittest and what capitalism thrives on. The fashion industry that involves us buying more of what we don't need is eating itself and is starting to feel and look stale. Fashion is having an ouroboros moment and it’s turning people off.