Sustainability in Fashion.
Our attitude towards clothes and our buying habits have drastically changed over the last 100 years. From ‘Make do and mend’ during WW2, to the ‘New Look’ pioneered by Dior in the 50’s, we are now in an age of ‘disposable fashion’. More than ever, society is feeling a need to fit in with the pressures of social media, but what impact is this having on the world we live in? With this topic hitting the press due to the British government proposing a 1p clothing tax, it’s important that there’s an understanding of what we can do as consumers and as an industry to encourage sustainability in the fashion industry.
Buy today. Bin tomorrow.
Britain has become one of the worst offenders for Fast Fashion, with individuals buying more new clothing than any other European country. This equates to £30 billion per annum for the British economy and 60% more fashion items being purchased compared to two decades ago. Shockingly however, it is estimated that 40% of a person’s wardrobe in a developed country is never worn. These alarming statistics are resulting in over 300,000 tonnes of clothing being thrown away each year and over 20% ending up in landfills in the UK alone.
What is this doing to our environment?
Fashion production has a seriously detrimental impact on the environment. One main offender is the increased use of fabrics such as polyester and artificial suede, as the excess plastic microfibers are finding their way into the ocean’s ecosystem. Fresh water depletion is being caused by the growth of cotton as the farmlands are irrigated and the chemicals are making their way into water supplies. Raising of live stock for leather is also creating land changes and deforestation. Textile production alone produces an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum, which is more than the shipping and aviation sectors combined.
Advocates for change.
According to WRAP’s Sustainability Clothing Action Plan, if consumers were to make clothes last just three months longer it could cut of 3% of the carbon, water and waste impact fashion is having. This is not a new behaviour as fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood have always championed ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’. But it is the fashion companies that are beginning to make real changes to offset the damage cause by the textile industry.
In 2017 H&M released a Suitability Report outlining their goal to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030. Along with many other positive environmental initiatives, H&M have also run a garment collection scheme, which has collected 61,000 tonnes of unwanted clothing since 2013. H&M aren’t the only company that are working to become sustainable. Adidas partnered with Parley, creating a collection that sold more than 1 million pairs of shoes made from recycled ocean plastic. In 2018 they launched their ocean plastic range, which provides a range of shoes and clothing. Per pair of shoes, it prevents approximately 11 bottles entering the ocean.
Is technology the answer?
American Eagle are pioneering a subscription service in the US which allows customers to rent 3 items at a time and swap them as many times in a month as they want. Norwegian clothing brand Carlings have also created a virtual fashion collection that can be digitally tailored to a customer’s photo. Both of these brands are providing solutions that address the pressure by social media to never be seen in the same clothes twice but in a sustainable way.
Change starts here.
Closer to home in Manchester, our own client Manchester Arndale successfully ran The Empty Shop in the city centre for five years. A concept originally started in Brazil, shoppers bring in their pre-loved clothing to be re-sold, with all proceeds going to charity. This approach helps reduce waste and also supports local charities.
In the war against the environmentally damaging culture of Fast Fashion, we can make small changes to create a positive impact. Brands are often telling us to keep up with the latest fashion – create a new wardrobe every season or new look for your home. If we close the loop by recycling unwanted items and remain open minded to new technological innovations, we can follow fashion and reduce our own carbon footprint.