Last week I attended a fashion event at Bicester Village in conjunction with Harpers bazaar. I had intended to write today about the A/W trends but AVRIL MAIR (Group Luxury Fashion Director) and Kim Parker (Fashion and Jewellery Director) touched briefly on sustainability in the fashion Industry.
What I have since discovered concerned me so much that I decided to dedicate todays article about it. It led me to ask the question WHO IS TO BLAME: THEM OR US ?
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
Fostering change in the systems towards great ecological integrity and social justice.
FOCUS ON FASHION
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil and gas. Rubber, leather and textiles make up 9% of all solid waste. Water consumption within the industry is growing substantially. More recent reports show that the fashion industry is slowing down its sustainability efforts. But is this because of an all time high demand for quick turnaround cheap fashion.
Ironically 75% of consumers indicate that sustainability in the clothing industry is important to them. But is it the consumers insatiable appetite for ‘fast fashion’ that is the real problem ? Causing the fashion industry to lose in the sustainability stakes.
Even though the industry is working to reduce its environmental footprint people are buying more and more clothes at ridiculously cheap prices. According to AVRIL MAIR we are wearing an item of clothing only up to 6 times in these current times !!!!
British consumers buy more new clothes per person than any of its European counterparts. Even the historic two annual fashion seasons have now very blurred lines with many fashion houses doing 4-6. While high street stores now do “weekly drops” to keep up with customer demand to buy disposable cheaper pieces. What is driving this I ask myself ? Desire,status,ego or just a need for excitement……or a fast fashion fix ? This fast fashion turnover of clothing (usually made from chemically laden fabric)can clog up landfill and causes 1.2billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than the emissions from international flights and shipping combined .
Throughout my Styling career I have ALWAYS emphasised the need for “style for life rather then a slave to fashion” and re positioning that focus. Concentrating on investment pieces with a couple of updates each season. Clothes that last a lifetime or at least, a long time. Planning your wardrobe not impulse buying.
Cheaper clothes = environmental damage. Beyond doubt.
Are consumers placing impossible demands on the fashion industry that it is almost impossible to improve sustainability ?
Let’s look closer………
It can take up to 3000 litres of water to produce one shirt. 10 000 for one pair of jeans.
Cotton production itself uses huge amounts of water . Also it is normally grown in warm dry climates where water is scarce.
Washing polyester releases microfibres into the water system and microscopic plastics that find their way back into the food chain. The process of dyeing clothes lead to toxic chemicals polluting the water on a massive scale.
Consumers disposing of these non bio degradable materials into landfill has risen massively into the 1990s. But fashion waste from cutting patterns is also a major problem. Although more Companies are now adopting zero waste cutting techniques.
Synthetic fibres of which fast fashion tends to be produced e.g. polyester,nylon,acrylic are all made using fossil fuels. Polluting both air and water. Carbon emissions generated by the clothing an average UK household over a year is equivalent is equivalent to driving a medium sized car 6000 miles.
Sustainability of course includes the workforce. Cheap clothes means cheap labour usually in very poor working conditions. Exploitation is generated by a need to cut costs and the volume required to satisfy demands. A lot of our clothes are assembled in India and China workers are paid low wages, poor health and safety conditions and degradation. Child labour is frequently used whose families dare not question the quality of their sons and daughters treatment.
There is no doubt that we need to explore better technology, water consumption, produce recyclable materials and and implement better working conditions to reduce the social and environmental impact, of this giant industry worth globally £300 billion per annum. But does the real answer lie with us the consumer who is demanding quick manufacturing at low prices. Perhaps we need to persuade David Attenborough to do a programme on the fashion industry !
JOJOS STYLELIST TIP : PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. AROUND TWO SEASONS AND STICK TO IT. SHOP MINDFULLY-DO YOU NEED IT OR LOVE IT MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR WARDROBE.