Fashion plays a major role in the global economy with annual revenues totalling over £1 trillion. However, it is also one of the largest polluting in the world. What is the importance of sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is about meeting today’s needs while ensuring that the way we go about meeting those needs meet future needs as well.
If you dig down a little deeper, sustainable fashion is also about benefitting the people involved throughout the fashion supply chain, from farmers, to consumers, to everyone working in end-of-life facilities such as recycling factories.
Why is it so important? It literally is as simple as it’s a matter of life or death. I know that sounds intense but fashion has such a significant impact on communities around the world.
It also has a huge climate change footprint, and if we’re going to tackle the existential threat of climate change, the fashion industry needs to urgently address its unsustainable practices.
If we don’t start to address the negative impacts of the fashion industry soon then we’re not going to have an industry in the future.
This year, London Fashion Week prohibited designers using fur on their catwalks, following pledges by brands, such as Burberry, Gucci and Versace, to go fur-free. Meanwhile, companies, such as Adidas and G-Star RAW, have developed apparel made from ocean plastic. Given that the fashion industry is one of the most resource-intensive, what is the importance of sourcing sustainable materials?
Large numbers of the materials that are commonly used today in the fashion industry are resource-intensive as you’ve mentioned.
Cotton, for example, requires a huge amount of water and synthetic materials, like polyester, are made from non-renewable resources such as oil.
Then there are other materials, like viscose, which on a massive scale is leading to deforestation and is therefore affecting the habitats of endangered species and ancient trees. So it’s crucial that we move towards researching and developing more sustainable materials because it’s critical to the future of the fashion industry as well as the planet.
The truth is, we can’t keep using resources the way we are because we won’t have those resources left.
It takes almost 3,000 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt. How large is the problem of waste, particularly water waste, in the clothing sector and how can it be reduced?
Waste is one of the most pressing problems in the fashion industry. 100 billion products are being pumped out of factories every year. We now buy more clothes then we have ever bought before disposing of them in the bin. In North America alone, consumers throw out what is the equivalent of the Empire State building in weight every year. This waste is then either being burnt or going to landfills which is not a sustainable way of doing business.
If you have to burn your product in order to dispose of it, that’s extremely inefficient, and it shows you’re not using your resources well. That desperately needs to change. We can’t keep filling up our landfills either, or sending our second-hand clothes to other countries, because there is eventually going to be no space left. Waste is our collective responsibility and it has to be addressed quickly.
Water waste is particularly an important issue. One of the most striking examples of this is the Aral Sea which was once the world’s fourth largest lake but has essentially dried up largely because of cotton farming. Fortunately, there are now innovative ways to dye clothes without having to use water which is extremely fascinating.