Whilst the fashion industry is much loved for its creativity and in some parts of the world for its freedom of expression, the fashion industry also exhibits negative environmental impacts.
Over recent years, the fashion industry has itself been refashioned. With the emergence of fast fashion in the mid 90’s, unsustainable design, low prices and low quality clothing flooded the market. Whilst this may at first glance be seen as a benefit, by allowing price-conscious consumers the chance to wear the current season’s changing fashion trends and by increasing the sheer volume of orders coming from garment manufacturers who are often located in developing countries, this type of fast paced consumption soon gave way to problems.
This rapid consumption of low cost and often low quality clothing lead to a ‘throw-away’ attitude to clothing. As a result, the amount of textiles discarded into landfills has drastically risen. Apart from this excess textile waste, the fashion industry makes extensive use of water, energy and raw materials throughout the garment supply chain. This threatens the earth’s natural supply of resources and causes high rates of pollution. For example, chemicals and toxins are often present in conventional textiles, such as cotton and polyester, and these cause environmental harm in the agricultural and processing stages.
The concern about the fashion industry does not stop once the clothing is purchased and walks out the shop door. Somewhat unexpectedly the actual use phase of a garment’s lifecycle, during which it is worn and re-washed, is often classified as having the highest environmental impact through the washing, drying, ironing and disposal of the garment. In addition, today’s complex global supply chains where clothing may have been produced in various different factories located in different countries, means that the consumer has become further removed from the origin of its product and its producers.
But despite the fashion industry’s complex challenges, we believe in the positive power of fashion. We believe that fashion can become more sustainable and that the people involved in the fashion supply chain can benefit fairly. But in order to create an environmentally sustainable fashion industry we need to rethink the way we design, produce, consume and dispose of fashion. We need to redress fashion.