Political and economic background of this website

UK clothing and textile consumption is high at approximately 2 million tons (value £38 billion) per annum. Over the period 1996-2005, consumer expenditure on clothing and textiles has grown 34 per cent, with further predicted demand increases.[1] This consumption has many different but quite significant environmental, social and ethical impacts, ranging from intense water use, for example cotton growing and washing the finished garment to waste production within all production stages. The social impacts range from poor working conditions to health and safety issues mostly in developing countries, where most of the “fast fashion” production is taking place today, due to the globalised supply chains.

We are currently in an economic downward trend and the news is full of credit crunch gloom. Increases in the cost of living on food, petrol and utility bills affects the spending of UK consumers. That´s where make do and mend can come in as an alternative to having to spend money on something new. Most people have a vast amount of clothes in their wardrobes. These old unwanted clothes, that either don´t fit any more or simply don´t look attractive to the owner, could be made into new clothing or simply just updated to make the garment desirable again. Also clothes can be mended if for example seams are worn out or buttons are missing. Instead of buying new mending and repairing offers an alternative, which saves money and also raw materials as no new garments are bought, which is kind to the environment.

The Green house effect is becoming more threatening which necessitating a reduction in our Co2 emissions and also the waste we produce each year as the UK faces a crisis in the disposal of its waste as existing landfill sites reach their capacity. Holding on to your clothes helps reduce landfill, material use and also Co2 emissions. All the production stages from for example man made fibres from oil refining, extrusion, spinning, textile construction, textile finishing, product construction and finishing, transport and sales all the way up to the use stage and laundry etc will not need to happen as the life of the “old” garment will be prolonged.

“Fast-fashion, like fast-food is easy on the wallet and provides a quick-fix retail hit. And, like-fast food, it has an unwelcome side-effect: excess. Just one eighth, by volume, of garments bought each year are recycled. Most discarded clothes end up in landfills.”[2]

Television programmes such as “Panorama” , which exposed Primark as using child labour to make their cheap clothing shows that, finally, ethical fashion is on the radar of the public. The big question is will this actually stop people from buying clothes from Primark & Co?

This is where consumer education comes in. Make-Do-And-Mend.org is designed to help consumers to understand the impacts clothes have on the environment and how fast fashion impacts on supply chains and therefore on the textile workers overseas.

At a time when the £2 top at Primark has made clothes almost a disposable commodity in an economic environment where the consumer has less disposable income make do and mend seems like a very sensible idea.  You definitely can´t get cheaper clothes than making new ones from your old ones or by simply repairing them rather than buying new.

The clothing and textile industry is also subject to intense political interest and major trade agreements such as the Multi Fibre Agreement (MFA 1974-1994) which imposed quotas on export of certain textile products like wool, cotton and synthetic fibres from developing countries in order to protect the industry and jobs in developed countries from the low cost competition.  Agreements such as the “Agreement on Textiles and Clothing” (1995-2005) were designed to encourage free trade and prepare the industry for the phasing out of the quotas.[3]

Since 2005 trade in clothing and textiles has been subject to less restriction than before but there are still import tariffs applied by developed countries at an average of 12% of garment imports and certain agreements like the USA subsidisation of it's cotton farmers still exist.[4] The ending of the quotas has increased EU imports from China and India. The rapid rise in Chinese imports and consequent drop in prices for UK consumers made it possible to “over consume” clothes.

Make-Do-And-Mend.org is helping individuals to understand and reduce the environmental impacts of the products and services they consume and through that tries to reduce these impacts.


[3] University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing , Well Dressed?, p.8

[4] University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing , Well Dressed?, p.8