Fast fashion is a global crisis
New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times, states a new study conducted by Oxfam. In one month alone, this is greater than the damage caused by flying a plane around the world 900 times. Fast fashion is at crisis point, and jewellery is not exempt from being a big part of the problem.
The insatiable demand for newer, trendier clothing and jewellery has exhausted the supply chain process. For the consumer, the latest fashion is inexpensive and readily-available. However, this accelerated demand calls for more labourers, working long hours and often in unsavory conditions.
Who’s to blame?
The same study by Oxfam found that even though three in 10 people said that they were shocked at how much damage fast fashion has on the environment, they probably won’t change their habits. The responsibility consumers play in the problem of fashion was further underscored by Oxfam’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, who said “as consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference”.
Even so, fashion and jewellery retailers are much more accountable, for they are directly responsible for the environmental and social impact of fast fashion production.
For example, in 2017, Pandora opened a factory in Thailand with the intention of doubling their output capacity whilst simultaneously halving their production time. The facility was capable of producing more than 1.5 million pieces of jewellery per week, hoping to profit from the supposed demand for fast and cheap fashion that damages our environment.
An alternative to fast fashion jewellery
Both shoppers and retailers are standing against fast fashion culture by choosing much more desirable alternatives. For example, the online marketplace JewelStreet only showcases jewellery from independent designers. The designers are based all over the world, united through an ambition to champion authenticity and quality through their designs.
A study conducted by JewelStreet proved that the modern jewellery consumer doesn’t even want jewellery that fits the current trend. In fact, only 6% of shoppers purchase jewellery solely based on what’s trendy. 66% of shoppers however, base their purchase on the unique design and quality of the jewellery.
JewelStreet shoppers don’t want to look like everyone else. They want jewellery that makes them stand out, retaining a premium quality and aesthetic edge.
Changing consumer habits
Whilst mass retailers such as Pandora cannot cater to the refined needs of the modern consumer, independent jewellery artisans are thriving. JewelStreet, for example, saw a 262% increase in sales in August 2019 versus the previous year, showing this increasing appetite for unique jewellery.
On the other hand, Pandora has faced numerous challenges since opening their factory in 2017. During the fourth quarter of 2018 - usually the most successful for jewellery-makers - Pandora’s shares plunged 12% after poor sales figures. This news was soon met by a cut of 700 jobs in February, and a further cut of 1,200 workers from their Thailand factory in May.
People want unique jewellery they won’t see anyone else wearing
After all, do you want your jewellery to be one of 1.5 million produced every week? Wouldn’t you rather invest in a piece knowing exactly how, where, and by who it was made? Many of JewelStreet’s products are made to order. Once that order is placed, the designer will handcraft that specific piece for you, and you only.
Consumers want high-quality jewellery they won’t see saturated in the mass market. They crave something unique, not something factory-made that has a detrimental effect on the environment.
Jewellery designers are taking a stand
What’s more, many designers in the industry are responding to the consumer desire for ethical and unique jewellery. Alex Angel-Benscher, lead designer of jewellery brand Vurchoo, is dedicated to combating fast-fashion and driving sustainability. A proportion of his brand’s profits fund the education of deprived children whose lives have been impacted by natural disasters.
He founded his brand through a desire to reignite the sentimental and personal focus of jewellery: “We are surrounded by jewellery and I want to bring back the meaning behind it. How often do you go down the highstreet to buy a piece of jewellery which tells a story as well?”
Alex, who has been a member of the JewelStreet community for three years, epitomises the essential function of jewellery - to connect people.
Creating a positive and innovative community
Through the work of designers like Alex, the birth of an innovative community of independent jewellers has ensued. Unlike Pandora - who continue to manufacture millions of factory-made pieces - JewelStreet have created an assembly of independent designers who produce unique and high-quality pieces the modern shopper loves.
This community is based on values of originality and quality craftsmanship. For example, JewelStreet designer Emma Nacht from EmmaKN Jewellery knows how to give her customers exactly what they want. When asked what she wants her customers to feel when wearing her jewellery, she answers:
‘Special. My patterns are unusual to wear as jewellery, and I want the wearer to feel exactly that, unusual and different. I want them to know the hard work has gone into each piece, just like the hard work gone into each individual person. I want them to feel proud to be supporting an independent maker like myself.’
The price of handmade jewellery versus mass-produced
Emma’s jewellery ranges between £80-£230, similar to Pandora’s products. The difference is, each of Emma’s pieces are completely unique and made by hand. It does not damage the environment or undermine workers’ lives through fast-fashion production.
Take a look at all the unique pieces you can find by independent artisans, handmade for your unique tastes.
Joseph Lamsin Jewellery use seawater to shape their unique pieces to emulate the rugged coastlines of Cornwall.
Cristina from Cristina Cipolli Jewellery is a trained architect. See how her sculptural designs draw on her background in architecture.
What’s in it for you?
When you make a purchase from an independent maker, not only are you gaining something much more valuable and unique than mass retailers such as Pandora, but you are also taking a step in the battle against fast-fashion and thus contributing to a progressive and positive industry.
Invest in jewellery that’s worth treasuring. Invest in pieces that are made and molded by hands, not machines. And invest in pieces that tell a story that enhances your own.